WASHINGTON — The longest-living American to serve in World War I survived war and prison camps, but in death, he couldn't escape Washington politics.
Nearly a week after Frank Buckles died at the age of 110, politicians on Friday were still at odds over how best to honor Buckles and the 4.7 million other Americans who served during World War I, which was called the war to end all wars. Lawmakers from Buckles' home state of West Virginia want to see his remains lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda and have expressed their unhappiness at House and Senate leaders who have resisted that idea.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are seeking Pentagon permission for holding ceremonies in the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, where Buckles will be buried.
Talks were still going on in the Senate about a resolution, offered by West Virginia's two Democratic senators, to approve use of the Rotunda to honor Buckles, but the indecision was frustrating Buckles' family.
"The leadership of Congress is standing in the way" of a Rotunda ceremony, said David DeJonge, Buckles' biographer and the family spokesman. "We want the highest level of respect for all that Frank Buckles stands for," he said. "It's not about Frank, it is about the passing of a generation."
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the author of a House resolution approving a Rotunda ceremony, still would have that as her first choice, said her spokeswoman, Jamie Corley. But Capito also thinks a ceremony at Arlington would be a fitting tribute. "She just wants a ceremony that will properly remember Frank Buckles and all World War I veterans."