By Rep. Mike Sanders
On Nov. 11, 1918, Allied nations and Germany signed an armistice to officially end World War 1. There is no one alive today to thank for their service in this war. The last known U.S. veteran of World War I was Frank Buckles who died Feb. 27, 2011, at the age of 110.
According to news reports, Buckles joined the Army at the age of only 16, admitting later that he lied to recruiters about his age in his effort to serve his country. He’d left his birth certificate back home in the family Bible believing God would forgive him this transgression. Several recruiters, fully aware of his youth, told him to get back home before his mother noticed he was gone. Finally, a recruiter relented and signed the young Buckles into service. In 1917, he was sent to Europe to serve in England and France, driving ambulances and motorcycles for the Army’s 1st Fort Riley Casualty Detachment. After the Armistice, he transported prisoners of war back to Germany.
In the 1942, Buckles was working for a shipping company in Manila, Philippines, when he was captured by the Japanese and interred in the Los Banos Prison Camp for three years. It was reported that even though he was malnourished and weighed just below 100 pounds and was sick with beriberi, he still found the strength to lead his fellow inmates in calisthenics. He was finally released in 1945.
Other heroes are closer to home. In the Kingfisher Cemetery is a memorial to honor the thousands of men and women from our area who served in past and present wars. Many of them gave their very lives for our freedom.
The name of Lewis S. Bamberg is engraved on this memorial. Bamberg served in the Army in World War I, leaving for the war in 1918, the same year the Armistice was signed. Bamberg wasn’t fortunate enough to miss the fighting. In the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, he was hit in the chest by mortar shrapnel. He was awarded the Purple Heart medal after returning home in 1919. Thankfully, he recovered from his wounds and died of natural causes in 1976, after spending his life as a farmer. He is buried in the cemetery that is home to the veterans’ memorial.
Veterans Day has grown to encompass all of our heroes – not just those that served in WWI but in the many wars and conflicts in which our nation has been involved. There are many men and women alive today to whom we can express our thanks for their sacrifice and their service to our nation and the preservation of our freedom.
Ronald Reagan reminded us that, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
That’s an important lesson for all of us as we approach this Veterans Day. I hope each of you will take a moment this Nov. 11 to remember the sacrifices of veterans like Frank Buckles or Lewis Bamberg or the men and women from your own families or circle of acquaintances that have served our country and sacrificed so that we might continue to enjoy liberty. Please say thank you and show them the honor and respect that is their due.