Sunday, December 23, 2007

Passing of An Era, Only 3 WW1 Vets Remain


December 23, 2007

Once again, one of our last remaining World War Veterans has passed away, on Thursday, December 20, 2007 at the age of 109 years. Only two known American World War One Veterans survive him.

J. Russell Coffey, a retired teacher as well, enlisted late in the war, it ending while he was still in Basic Training. Coffey never saw combat.

It was just in March of 2007 that the Last WWI Combat Veteran was laid to rest in Portland, Oregon’s Lincoln Memorial Park. Retired Army Cpl. Howard V. Ramsey was laid to rest one month before reaching his 109th birthday.

After Cpl. Ramsey’s death, there were nine. Now there are three, one from the Canadian Army.

Also earlier this year, Emiliano Mercado del Toro another of America’s few remaining WW1 Veterans died at the age of 115. Charlotte Winters, the last known female WW1 Veteran died this March at 109. All have been said to have remained bright and alert until the last few months of their lives.

Moses Hardy, the last Black US Veteran died in December 2006. Lloyd Brown, the last known surviving WW1 Navy Veteran died in March 2007 as well.

With these Veterans goes any first hand knowledge of that first Global War, only their memories written down remain. Memories encased in The National World War One Museum located in Kansas City, Missouri. Opening in December 2006, the Museum has a massive portrait wall and an interactive video gallery enables visitors to learn about the sacrifices of these “Doughboys.”

About 4.7 Million men and women served in the US Military during World War One. Approximately 53,000 gave the ultimate sacrifice in the war with another 204,000 wounded. Of those numbers, only three known surviving Veterans remain, one, John Babcock, 107 of Spokane, Washington, having served in the Canadian Army. The other two are Frank Buckles, 106, of Charles Town, W.Va.; and Harry Richard Landis, 108, of Sun City Center, Fla.

Shortly, there will be none, the youngest being 106.

Just short of a century ago, these men donned the uniform of our country, picked up a gun and traveled by ship to a foreign land to help keep a foreign people free. Two decades later many of these men and their sons repeated that and fought in an even bloodier war, to keep free people free. They too are passing away at an alarming rate.

Today, our young men and women are once again donning the uniform, picking up a gun and traveling across the oceans to fight those who would take freedom away from not only us, but citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan. Of their numbers, most will return home unscathed, many will return broken in body or spirit and too many will not return at all.

I grieve for all who do not return and for their families. At the same time, I have immense pride in young people who willingly place themselves between our enemies and us. We will not allow them to be mistreated, as were those of us who served in Viet Nam.

As these last few World War One Veterans pass on, reflect on their sacrifices, their own mistreatment by the US Government and their long lives. Give them the honors they so rightly deserve.

They and their sacrifices must never be forgotten.


Lew

3 comments:

Donald Douglas said...

Hi Lew!

Hope you're having a wonderful Christmas!

Here's to you and yours for a great '08!

Lew Waters said...

Donald, I too hope that you and your family are enjoying a very Merry Christmas and that 2008 is a banner year for all.

Gary Fouse said...

I got a Christmas e-mail a couple of days ago from an old friend and DEA colleague. I am just going to call him Bill. I first met Bill in 1973, when we were both assigned to attend language school at the Foreign Service Institute in Rosslyn, Va. For the next 6 months, Bill and I studied the Thai language in preparation for our eventual transfer to Thailand. Subsequently, Bill was assigned to Chiang Mai, and I was assigned to Bangkok.

After Thailand, we went our separate ways, crossing paths every few years. At one point, Bill was assigned to Islamabad, Pakistan. During his tour there, the embassy was attacked and burned by an angry mob with loss of life. For his actions in helping save American and Pakistani lives, Bill was cited as a hero in that tragedy.

Eventually, our careers ran their course, and both of us retired from DEA. Bill continued in law enforcement for a while, then retired for good- for a short period. In the wake of 9-11 and our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bill (an Air Force Viet Nam veteran) decided he could not just sit back on the sidelines and enjoy his comfortable retirement-even though he was well into his 60s. As a result, he signed up about a year ago to assist our military in Afganistan. I assume his assignment has something to do with drug intelligence, but the important thing is that Bill is embedded with Army troops. After intensive training with the Army in the US and Germany, Bill went to Afghanistan, where he is today.

My point here is that there are few people like my friend, Bill. While I am in awe of the young men and women who are willing (in the absence of a draft) to put on the uniform and go fight for their country, that one in his 60s would step out of retirement to do the same is heroic beyond measure.

If this country can continue to produce more people like Bill, there will always be hope for our future.

God bless you, Bill....and stay safe.

gary fouse
fousesquawk