The End Of An Era – Frank Buckles Laid To Rest

by Jim on 2011/03/16

[Jimbaux was “over there” at Arlington National Cemetery.]

Yesterday, an era came to an end, and Jimbaux was on the scene with falling-apart-camera in-hand.

Frank Buckles was the last surviving American soldier to participate in World War I.  Only two participants of that war remain alive now, both in the United Kingdom.  For those of us in North America (now that there are no surviving Canadian veterans of that war either), we said goodbye to an entire generation yesterday.

I Got Some Shots of The Presidential Motorcade

Yes, I got some shots of the presidential motorcade leaving Arlington National Cemetery as I was arriving.  Here they are . . .

Oh, darn, where are they?  They seem to have disappeared!  Where are my shots?  Well, I’ve mentioned several times before that my camera gear is literally falling apart, and that I have to squeeze the camera just to get a charge out of the battery.  I have noticed that there are a few other pictures from yesterday that are missing in addition to the shots of the Presidential motorcade.  I can only guess that the motorcade shots, which I fired in rapid succession, did not write to the memory card because the camera lost connection with the battery before the shots were written to the card.  In other words, they’re gone forever.  That sucks, doesn’t  it?

I’m An All-American?

That’s right, kiddies, and thanks to the madness of daylight stupid time, I can’t get up early enough to make my own food, like what happens this time every year; so, I had to chow down some garb from McDonald’s while on the  way to honor Buckles and his comrades who died so that we could have the right to eat crappy fast food and mess with our clocks, right?

Nothing Stops Jimbaux

Until recently, Jimbaux was his own worst enemy.  That may be still true, but it wasn’t today.  When I arrived at the visitor center at the cemetery, I was told I was too late to attend Buckles’s burial.  I’m not to be deterred, and I know you’ll probably like the shots below.  So, I pressed onward anyway to see what I could in terms of photographically rendering this historic event in Section of Arlington National Cemetery.

Sacred Ground

Every American should come here once, I believe.  It’s truly a humbling place, and it’s part of our national identity.  Actually, it goes beyond that.

Buckles’s burial was considered an “open” ceremony, but he was also a common soldier who only gained fame late in his life for the fact that he lived so long and was therefore the last American representative of that war.

I’ll venture a guess and say that there were about a thousand people there.

The lead car seen below carried Gen. Eric Shinseki, current US Secretary of Veterans Affairs and former US Army Chief of Staff.

I present these pictures to you in the order in which I took them.

Below, Gen. Shinseki is greeted by someone with the Army Honor Guard.

The “Rolling Thunder” group of veterans on motorcycles really made their presence felt!

I had plenty of occasion to reflect on a great many things here, as this event was full of symbolism.

Love, Life, Peace, Country, and Identity

Last summer, as I was trying to find a way to move here to DC, a friend was helping me look for work here.  One of several job postings that she found for me was one with the American Legion, and she suggested that it would be good for me because of my “patriotism.”  I’m still scratching my head over that comment, because not only do I not consider myself any more patriotic than the next guy, and not only would that job probably not have been very rewarding for me, but that’s the first time I can recall anyone ever referring to me as having patriotism!  Furthermore, not only had I not been called patriotic before that, but I’ve actually had my patriotism questioned on occasion over the years.

Again, I can only guess what she meant by that.  Perhaps she said such a thing because of my interest in subjects such as these dealing with military affairs and with war.  That, however, does not make me any more patriotic than those who are not interested in such things.  Just because I’m interested in the subject, doesn’t mean I’m “pro-war” or anything like that; I’m just fascinated by the idea of such willing sacrifice, a sociological and cultural and even anthropological field of study, if you will.

The word “patriotism” has been so terribly skewed in the last decade, and probably before that too.  Perhaps this friend somehow erroneously interpreted my interest in the topics of military and war as being a form of military worship, which is too prominent, and it’s definitely not true for me.  I definitely don’t worship the military or those in it as some seem to do, and I wasn’t cut out for military service, but I can respect the sacrifices those in it make.

Rather, I am interested in the stories of human sacrifice, and especially how they affect history and with geopolitical change.  That doesn’t mean that I’m pro-war.  The fact that I believe the 2003 invasion of Iraq was just wrong does not at all decrease my interest in places like Arlington or in the stories of war and sacrifice, and the fact that I was against the invasion does not at all mean that I’m not patriotic!

My father is interested in such matters too, and, as I wrote in the “Peace, Place, Family, and Identity” article, he thought that US participation in the Vietnam War was “completely wrong” and sought to avoid it.  He still loves his country greatly.

Too often, the word “patriotism” is used when “nationalism” is meant.  I’m not nationalistic, and my interest in the subjects shown here today should not be considered evidence of patriotism or nationalism. I love my country regardless of some of the messed up stuff that it does.

As shown here, I had the opportunity to visit the Canadian Tomb of The Unknowns last summer with my father, and I am just as interested in that as I am in the American version of it here at Arlington.   I’ve also visited the Tombs of the Unknown in France and England.

None of those things make me any more or less patriotic (or even nationalistic) than the rest of humanity, and none of those things should be indications that I’m a war-hawk.  I respect the sacrifices made and am merely interested in the organization and saga of it all.  I’m definitely not  jingoistic (many people I know are), but I respect the subjects shown here, and I wanted to be here to send off Buckles and watch an era end.  So did these people:

I neither worship nor detest the men in uniform shown at the bottom of the below picture.  Rather, I respect them and am interested in their individual and collective stories.

As many of you already know, as a person who fiercely values his individuality, I reject any labels anyone tries to put on me.  I’ve been called both “conservative” and “liberal” recently, and I just don’t want to play that game.

Part of my point in explaining all of that is that you need not be a person interested in military affairs, a war-hawk, or nationalistic, or even patriotic, to appreciate the significance of this event.

As The Caissons Go Rolling Along

The horses and the caisson carrying Buckles’s casket approach, over hill, over dale.

Here’s a closer shot as it approaches and prepares to make a left turn.

I was truly honored to witness this event, the last of the “doughboys” being laid to rest.

Note the priest in the below picture at left, and note the ramp leading to the burial plot.

The below pictures show that Buckles, a common soldier who only gained fame as an elderly person for simply being alive, is buried right next someone with whom he has plenty in common: a first name, a war, and a part of the country.  (Buckles was from West Virginia.)

Death And Silence

I recently wrote about death, silence, and hope in winter, and the below image with the leafless tree in the background reminds me of this.  Spring will be here soon!  Where one life ends, others begin, and we should always remember Buckles and his generation.  My great-grandfather James Gaudet also participated in that war, and his memory lives on in many ways, including in my name!

It was not long after this time that I was one of a few people in this area asked to move to the left of where I was standing.  The only problem with that is that I can’t get the casket in the pictures.  I’ll have to improvise, and that’s what I did, to very good effect.

You Won’t See These Views Anywhere Else

That’s a promise.  No media outlet will have shots quite like the ones  you see below, as I was onliest photographer standing on this far road to get these telephoto views.  First, before I get shots that include the casket, here is another view of the Rolling Thunder folks.

This was an amazing spectacle.  As “Taps” was being played, I smiled as I smile at funerals, thinking about a great life lived, like I smiled at recent funerals for family members.

Below is a zoomed-in version of the exact same shot as above.

Did I mention that I am honored beyond words to have been able to both witness this event and bring it to you?

Note the priest seen in the below shot.

Below, the honor guard walks away, giving a better view of the casket.

Amazing.  Rest in peace, Cpl. Buckles, and rest in peace, the entire World War I generation.

Do it, Rockefeller!

Among the dignitaries on-hand for the event was West Virginia US Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Contrary to the impression that you might get from the above picture, the young, pretty female Army officer in the above picture is not some romantic companion of Rockefeller.  Rather, she’s actually there serving a very practical purpose.  The senator was having trouble walking, and she and others were holding him upright and helping him get around.

I Need A New Camera!

The below image shows this too.  I had plenty of problems getting proper focus in my shots, and I can only guess that the misalignment of the sensor due to the camera’s housing coming apart is causing these focus problems since the image is recorded slightly behind where the camera needs to focus.

Being a broke, underemployed starving-artist and second-time college student, I couldn’t even afford a new Rebel right now.

Below, Sen. Rockefeller is helped toward the curb.  His car would soon arrive.

Perhaps the lady at left is one of Rockefeller’s staffers.

Here’s one last shot of Rockefeller and company, again showing focusing issues that vex me but not bad enough to not be presented here.

After this, I chatted up a conversation with a Marine standing next to me, and we walked the long walk back to the visitors center together.  It was nice to listen to his story of how he got here.

Silence Noise and Respect

The silence and serenity of Arlington is momentarily interrupted as hundreds of motorcycle engines move their riders out of the cemetery after they pay their respects.

And that’s all the pictures I took.  Enough?  And to think I was told I was too late to attend the burial!

Gratitude

Thank you, Corporal Buckles.  We say goodbye to an entire generation as we lay you to rest, but we must make sure that your spirit and memory live on in the hearts and memories of men and nations.  You are gone, but you are not forgotten.

If  you like what you see here, please join the Jimbaux’s Journal fan page on Facebook to be alerted to site updates.  Also, for those of you on Twitter, look for @JimbauxsJournal to find this site.  Thanks.

As always, comments are welcome below.  The name and e-mail address you use may be a fictitious one.  Thanks.

Jimbaux

{ 18 comments }

1 Peggy Mannion March 16, 2011 at 22:31

Hi James: Thanks for sending this along…I found it very interesting…more so because I
visited Arlington last summer…when the temp was, literally, 112…yet, we walked around,
stopping intermittently at the faucets which are here and there along the road…

2 Rita March 17, 2011 at 00:18

Wow! I could sit and stare at that photo of mum and her little daughter in black all day. Wow! Stunning photos!

3 Philip Clement March 17, 2011 at 01:09

Beautiful Work!

4 John Robichaux March 17, 2011 at 09:21

A final hand salute I give to Frank Buckles and all who served in World War I.
A pat on the back I give to you for taking the time to be there and record it for us.

5 Whitney March 17, 2011 at 10:33

Amazing pictures, James! Thanks for sharing.

6 Chelsey March 17, 2011 at 11:51

Great pictures! I miss ya and great job on the website.

7 Ariadne Johnson March 17, 2011 at 14:07

Great Pics Jimbaux!

8 Devin Howard March 17, 2011 at 14:45

I miss you dude, but I am glad you are doing what you love.

9 Howard Bunte March 17, 2011 at 18:57

Hey James,
having email problems, so having to do several workarounds/// taking extended time to get it…
so, why I am ‘late’ . but never indifferent.
Great shots…sorry for YOU for your aging camera, but ‘parts wear’… and I believe the ‘message’ of the photo is not about f-stops, or pixels, but the emotion left within the viewer AFTER it has been viewed. Nope, I cannot dissect the photo…only when “i cannot ‘make out what you are photographing’, but having been there before, I know the quiet…the somberness… similar to the great Civil War cemetaries, near Vicksburg, and Chattonooga… and Santa Fe, for a more modern one, and Westwood/UCLA, Los Angeles, starting with Civil War veterans… in Los Angeles.
all speak of … times gone..Did i ever tell you my mother, as a girl, lived near a Civil War veteran?… a man with no legs… and she mentioned him often, in reminding me to ‘be aware of others and their burdens’…
Ah, yes, these folks are gone, resting ‘neath the sod, but their folks have to live on, with the interrupted ‘melodies of their young lives’…
Frank Buckles…lived his out in a good long stretch of years, but I’ll wager he would have traded those war-time years of mud and blood for others of peace and tranquillity…
but as you say, … prices seemingly must be paid…
Thanks again for these ‘meditations in print and picture’… good for my soul, anyway… Hope you take a philosophy course or two, along the way…
your friend, Howard

10 judd March 21, 2011 at 19:53

Jimbo, I definitely appreciate all of what you are able to capture with this article. Pictures are impressive. –and to answer tthat IM yes I am “into the article” – Damn good son damn good. proud of your work.

11 Vivian Medina March 22, 2011 at 14:16

Thoes are amazing pictures. its so sad that that person died.

12 Laurie March 22, 2011 at 23:49

I absolutely love these pics! Especially the one of the woman and child. Thank you so much for posting this. I would have never known about this last World War I American hero if you had not brought it to my attention. You captured the reverance and respect of this great man very well! Keep up the great work!

13 Ian June 2, 2011 at 16:30

Wonderful photos – just one comment, I am in a couple of your pictures. I was part of the Patriot Guard Riders that were there for the funeral that day. Rolling Thunder is an event which occurs every Memorial Day weekend. As a Patriot Guard Rider, we routinely are requested by the family of the deceased to stand in honor, respect and memory.

Our primary mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. We do this to accomplish the following:
1. Show respect and honor to our fallen heroes, and support their families and their communities.
2. Ensure an atmosphere of dignity and respect for those in mourning.

Other missions undertaken by Virginia Patriot Guard include:
• Honor Missions for veterans as requested by families
• Visits to VA Medical Centers and Virginia State Veterans Homes
• Welcome Home and Deployment Sendoff Missions

thanks again for the photos

14 SSG Jeff Clark 299th ENCO MRBC June 2, 2011 at 17:55

A while back you stopped into my wife’s Carry Out for lunch and took some great pictures of Bowie. I have been following your journal since then and I will say again that your pictures are awesome. I am returning home in the next month and wanted to know if you would like to come to our homecoming. If so please email me back. Keep doing what you do because you are truly GREAT!

15 EDITOR - Jimbaux June 2, 2011 at 22:37

Wow! That’s incredible! Thanks, SSG Clark. Just e-mail the date and time for this event, and I’ll see if I can be there. I could come and photograph the event, but I’ll need to see if I can get my hands on a good telephoto lens because, as you might have seen here, much of my gear was stolen in April.

In case anyone else is wondering about the pictures of Bowie to which SSG Clark refers, see this.

16 Angeline Castilloux August 4, 2013 at 10:13

Hey Jimbeaux, great post.
I noticed that your great Grandfather was a Gaudet. My grandmother’s last name was Gaudette, and we are descendants of the Acadian Gaudets. We may have some ancestry in common, since most Gaudets in North America are believed to be descents of Jean (or Jehan) who settled in Acadia in the early 1600s with his family. Do you have any knowledge about which of your ancestors settled in Louisiana and when? There are a lot of instances of entire families being split apart in my family’s history and I’m curious as to what became of them. As for the Gaudets I’ve noticed that many of them were born in Port Royal (now Nova Scotia) and some died in Quebec (my direct ancestors), others died in France, and still others died in Lafourche (parish?). I am really curious to find out as much as I can about what happened to them and how they ended up where they did. I doubt I’ll ever find out about each person specifically but it’s worth a shot! Thanks for any help you can provide!

17 JIMBAUX August 25, 2013 at 11:32

Well, since my ancestors were from Lafourche Parish, that may settle it! As for the additional details, my father may have that information. I will have to ask him.

18 Angeline Castilloux August 25, 2013 at 13:20

Thank you so much! So much of that period is a mystery, it’s frustrating when I am looking at the end result of the deportations and trying to figure out why and how families settled where they did. But I guess since the annihilation of a culture seems to have been one of the ultimate goals of the British back then I shouldn’t be surprised. Lucky for me many others are as interested in their Acadian roots as I am in mine, there’s much more information out there today than even a few years ago.

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