Buckles, who served as a U.S. Army ambulance driver in Europe during what became known as the “Great War,” rose to the rank of corporal before the war ended. He came to prominence in recent years, in part because of the work of DeJonge, a Michigan portrait photographer who had undertaken a project to document the last surviving veterans of that war.
As the years continued, all but Buckles had passed away, leaving him the “last man standing” among U.S. troops who were called “The Doughboys.”
DeJonge found himself the spokesman and advocate for Buckles in his mission to see to it that his comrades were honored with a monument on the National Mall, alongside memorials for veterans of World War II and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.
Buckles made history when he was asked to testify in Congress on the matter before a House committee on December 3, 2009.
“I have to,” he told CNN when he came to Washington, as part of what he considered his responsibility to honor the memory of fellow-veterans.
Buckles, after World War I ended, took up a career as a ship’s officer on merchant vessels. He was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II and held prisoner of war for more than three years before he was freed by U.S. troops.