Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Last WWI Soldier Survivor Dies

His name is Frank Buckles and he was the last living U.S. World War I veteran before dying at age 110. Plans are being made to allow his casket to be displayed at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington before moving his remains to Arlington National Cemetery. A family spokesman said that Buckles, who turned 110 on February 1, 2011, died peacefully in his home of natural causes.

Buckles served as a U.S. Army ambulance driver in Europe during what was then known as the "Great War," where he reached the rank of corporal before the war ended. His assignments included escorting German prisoners of war. And in a shocking turn of events he himself became a prisoner of war during World War II when a merchant vessel he was employed on was captured by the Japanese. He was held for three years before he was freed by U.S. troops.

The first World War saw 4,734,991 Americans serve in uniform. More than 116,000 were killed, and more than 204,000 wounded in the 19 months of U.S. involvement. The overall death toll of the 1914-18 conflict was more than 16.5 million, including nearly 7 million civilians, and more than 20 million who were wounded.

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, a House sponsor of legislation to upgrade the DC War Memorial, stated, "We have come to the end of a chapter in history. Frank was the last ‘American Doughboy’ - a national treasure. His life was full and varied and an inspiration for his unbridled patriotism and enthusiasm for life."

The nation owes a deep debt of gratitude for the Frank Buckles of the world, and others like him, who sacrificed for the freedoms we and other nations still enjoy. A memorial in Washington is the least that should be done to honor them all – now including the very last of his breed from the so-called “Great War”.

The Bible indicates a general life span for the average man or woman. It is said to be in the area of seventy years, although today’s medical technology in advanced nations has helped increase that number somewhat. But if an average world-wide census were to be taken, including third-world nations, that number just might even out today according to the biblical pattern.

But the larger issue has never been when one dies – whether at age 10 or 110. What is truly critical is what happens in that very next second after one breathes his or her last and no longer reveals a pulse. It is at that most sobering of all moments that Hebrews 9:26-28 becomes very real and very important. The writer there declares, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

Life is a gift from God. But the length of any life is highly insignificant when compared to the spiritual conditions of the heart – and not the one that pumps blood and keeps the physical body alive. The problem in a word, is sin, along with the above mentioned judgment and the unimaginable eternal penalty it can bring. That is why Scripture reveals that all men require a new spiritual heart - one that will guide them throughout this life and fully prepare them for the next! (Romans 3:23, 1John 5:11-13)

The source, capabilities, and procurement of this unique and optional heart is explained briefly but fully in Romans 10:8-10. “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Again we applaud and honor the Frank Buckles of the world. We also pray that his spiritual heart was ready for eternity when his physical one experienced its last beat. But for those who are alive today, there is still that precious, and perhaps limited, time to prepare for that ‘appointed day’ through trusting Jesus Christ as Savior here and now! (Acts 16:31)

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Bill Breckenridge

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