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. 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 senators, to approve use of the Rotunda to honor Buckles.
Neither Boehner nor Reid explained their position on the Rotunda’s use.
Lying in honor – or in the case of elected U.S. officials or military officers lying in state – in the Rotunda is a rare event, occurring only 30 times since Sen. Henry Clay was the first to be so recognized in 1852.
Among those who have lain in the Rotunda are 11 presidents, war leaders such as John J. Pershing and Douglas MacArthur, statesmen such as Hubert Humphrey and Charles Sumner, and unknown soldiers from World War I and II and the Vietnam War.