Profiles In Manliness: Last American WWI Veteran Had A Burning Desire
Frank Woodruff Buckles is the last remaining American WWI Veteran, also known as a “Doughboy“. He was honored in March 2008 by President Bush and his story surfaced again this July 4th weekend and for good reason.
You see, Frank Buckles is now 107 years old and joined the United States Marine Corps 91 years ago in 1917. He was in the US Marines during the 18 month involvement in the conflict dubbed “The War To End All Wars.”
Here is where his story gets really interesting. The war breaks out and the US involvement is just starting. The year is 1917 and Frank goes down to the marine recruiter. He asks him how old you have to be to join the fight and the marine recruiter says 18. Frank is only 16 at the time. I guess his desire to fight in a far off land and possibly die will have to wait. What to do???
He comes back a week later and enlists. He decides to lie to the marine recruiter and tell him he is 18 (I guess there wasn’t any proof needed at the time). Off to the war in Europe at the ripe young age of 16. Here is a picture of the young marine who is not of legal age to fight for his country. ——->
When asked why he lied for the opportunity to fight and possibly die for his country, he says “I had to get my butt over there.” Now that is a man. Let me say it again – he LIED to the marine recruiter to join the fight!
He went to France as an ambulance driver and as we have learned in recent wars, driving the transport vehicles and supply vehicles can be one of the more dangerous jobs. You are a constant target and often have no line of defense for attacks.
Burning Desire That Exists In Every Man
This story reminded me of an interview I heard once with Arthur Ashe, the great, historic tennis player from the 60’s and 70’s. He said he did not go and fight in Vietnam and there was always a void in his life because of it. He said that every man has a desire (possibly even a burning desire) to be tested on the battlefield – to fight for his country and look death in the face while doing it.
For centuries, cultures practice the “rights of passage” for young men. Whether it be his first kill as a hunter, his first time having sex, or fighting on the battlefield in conflict – men do have a desire to be tested and prove worthiness to leave boyhood and become a man in the eyes of his peers.
This certainly was a key motivation for Frank Buckles to join the United States Marine Corps. When he lied to that marine recruiter, he took a huge chance – with the recruiter and with his own life. He wanted to prove his manliness, whether he wanted to admit it or not, and at the same time fulfill his desire to serve his beloved country.
Now that is a true testament of manliness and courage.