For me, and probably most of the people my age, World War I is that war that I never think about. Sure, we studied it in history class, but, it’s not a part of the popular discussion. There aren’t countless movies or TV shows or comics about the War to End All Wars (if only that had been true.)
So, for me, the war is a little mysterious. But, this isn’t about me, it’s about the last veteran of a war we don’t really remember.
He was a 110 years old. He lied to get into the Army, after being rejected by other branches. During the war, he served as a driver and worked in a warehouse. Later, when he returned to the States, he traveled a bit, learned a bit, and got involved in shipping. Which, years later, led to him being a civilian prisoner of war for three years under the Japanese. A life of adventure.
“I was never actually looking for adventure,” Buckles once said. “It just came to me.” That statement intrigues me. A life of adventure, without intending it. He certainly led an extraordinary life. But, I don’t know if he didn’t seek it out. He certainly wasn’t seeking out being a prisoner of war, no, but, he seems to have led a life on the move. Jumped at opportunities. Said yes to life.
Now, I don’t want to ascribe motivations to a man that I have never met. He joined the Army at 16. America was in it’s first big confrontation. A lot of young men were joining the war. It was a duty. And he later went into shipping because that’s the career that suited him the best. So, the place and time of the choices had a lot to do with it.
I’m intrigued by a man who saw the world and things happened to him. Maybe it was the very act of seeing the world, that’s what led to adventure.
Now that he has passed, there are only two more remaining WWI vets in the world. Two. From the 65 million that served. Time marches on. And sometimes we get to busy to pause and consider the lives and adventures of those who lived before us.
But, we should.