Frank Buckles (left), the last surviving World War I veteran, who recently died at age 110, shakes hands with then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid before a ceremony in 2008.
Members are fighting over how to honor Frank Buckles, the last World War I veteran, who recently died at the age of 110.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller has been working on legislation to allow Buckles — a Charles Town, W.Va., resident — to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. On the House side, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced a similar resolution.
But Speaker John Boehner said he would block legislation that would allow Buckles to lie in state.
Instead, the Ohio Republican, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), will ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to allow Buckles’ family to use the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
“Everyone honors Mr. Buckles’ service to the United States, and the extraordinary sacrifices made by every member of our Armed Forces who served in World War One,” Steel said in a statement. By having the memorial at Arlington, Buckles will be “surrounded by honored veterans of every American war.”
Rockefeller blasted Boehner in a release sent Friday, calling the decision to block “surprising” and “a big disappointment.” The West Virginia Democrat did not mention Reid.
“My resolution was simple,” Rockefeller said. “It would have provided a fitting tribute to Frank Buckles — the nation’s last Doughboy. Surely, Speaker Boehner can agree that the Congress should pause for a moment to pay its respects to Mr. Buckles and all our World War I veterans. When you honor one veteran, you honor them all.”
Sen. Joe Manchin followed suit, urging the Speaker to reconsider.
“It is unconscionable that Speaker Boehner would deny this honor to the last living American veteran of World War I,” the West Virginia Democrat said. “Frank Buckles was the standard-bearer of a great cause and spent the last years of his long life fighting to make sure that our country pays proper tribute to all World War I veterans.”
Reid’s office confirmed that the Nevada Democrat would join Boehner in asking for Buckles’ service to be held at Arlington but wouldn’t comment on the statements from Rockefeller and Manchin.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.