World War I vets got the shaft!

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In a Dec. 3, 2009 file photo, Frank Buckles appears on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate National Parks subcommittee. Buckles, America's last surviving World War I veteran wants Congress to create a memorial in the nation's capital honoring veterans of that WWI. (AP Photo)

Frank Buckles turned 109 in February. And he is spending this Veteran’s Day fighting an injustice nearly 100 years in the making. Buckles, the nation’s last living World War I vet, said today that he wants Congress to create a memorial that honors the 5 million Americans who served in the First Great War. More than 116,000 were killed and another 205,000 wounded.

Anyone with a better-than-average knowledge of Washington D.C. knows a memorial already exists. But look at it next to the World War II memorial, and see if you think the earlier vets got the shaft:

The World War I Memorial

The World War II Memorial

Before anyone chimes in with angry defense on behalf of the Greatest Generation, hold your breath. We know the World War II vets deserve that grand memorial, to say the very least. We honor them and would never detract from their legacy or sacrifice.

We simply feel the World War I vets deserve honor, as well. And the memorial that stands today is, well, dishonorable. These vets defeated four major powers — Germany and Russia, and the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, which were outright eliminated. The League of Nations emerged in the aftermath. And we as a nation memorialize this group with a pathetic little domed gazebo that sits hidden among the trees on the National Mall. It is all but forgotten … as are its warriors.

Worse yet, it is not even a national memorial. It was dedicated in 1931 to honor the 26,000 D.C. residents who went to war, and has inscribed in the base the names of 499 Washingtonians who lost their lives.

That’s where Buckles comes in. The West Virginia resident lied about his age and joined the Army at 16. Thankfully, there’s still some fight left in him. As honorary chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation, he isn’t letting the issue fade into the pages of history.

Visit the foundation’s website to find out how you can help him claim this overdue victory.

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About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.

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