Saturday, May 7, 2011

And then there was one...

A couple months ago, the last surviving American veteran from World War One passed away, not quite a month after turning 110. In my humble yet correct opinion, the service and memory of Frank Woodruff Buckles should have been commemorated by his body lying in state at the Capitol rotunda but spineless jellyback politicians wouldn't allow an exception for the last member of an entire generation of American service members. You know, those people who go thousands of miles from home in harm's way to protect the American people and our way of life....not to mention keep 75% of the rest of this planet from being killed off by the other 25%. Way to go, Boehner & Company.

This week, the last surviving World War One combat veteran IN THE WORLD, PERIOD, passed away. Claude Stanley Choules, known as Chuckles to his friends and admirers, quietly left this life at a retirement nursing home in Australia after 110 remarkable years. He was only 14 years old when he joined the Nautical Training Ship Mercury, and then transferred to the Royal Navy in 1916. Choules was still a teenager at the end of World War I. He transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in 1926, and served during World War II as well. In fact, he remained with the Australian Navy until his retirement in 1956. Read more about him here.

Godspeed, Chuckles... rest in peace...

And now this leaves us with just one single, solitary 110-year-old person left alive who served during the First World War, born in February 1901. Her name is Florence Green, and she lives in King's Lynn, County Norfolk, England, about 100 miles north of London. Born in Edmonton, in the Enfield borough of London, Green joined the Women's Royal Air Force two months before the end of the war in September 1918 at the age of 17, where she served as an officers' mess steward. She worked in the officers' mess at RAF Marham and was also based at Narborough airfield. Come the 11th day of the 11th month, the Marham pilots greeted news of the German surrender by clambering into their planes and bombing nearby RAF Narborough airfield with bags of flour. Narborough, not to be outdone, retaliated with their own daring raid, this time dropping bags of soot.

When asked what it's like to be 110, Mrs. Green, who lives with her daughter May, quite the spring chicken at just 89, was rather philosophical: "It's not much different to being 109," she said, which seems plausible, though of course very few get to find out. Of the flying flour and soot war of Norfolk, 1918, she said simply: "It seems like such a long time ago now." To put it into context, she married her husband Walter, a railway porter, in 1920, and they had three children together. He died 50 years later, and that was 41 years ago.

This remarkable lady is the absolute last of her kind left in the world. Once she shuffles off this mortal coil, we will have lost all of our veterans worldwide from that conflict, along with their first-hand accounts, stories, anecdotes, and memories. And entire generation's legacy, worldwide, rests upon this lady's shoulders. Let's all help her out by making sure we never forget.

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