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Last WWI Vet Buckles Will Lie in Basement at Arlington, Not Capitol Rotunda

Mar 11, 2011 – 3:14 PM
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Andrea Stone

Andrea Stone Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- The last American doughboy from World War I will lie in honor in a basement chapel of the amphitheater of Arlington National Cemetery -- not the U.S. Capitol rotunda -- and then be interred on Tuesday.

In a brief announcement, the cemetery said Army Cpl. Frank Buckles, who died at 110 on Feb. 27, will be "memorialized" and will "lie in honor" at Arlington's Memorial Amphitheater Chapel from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. for the public to pay their last respects.

There is no ceremony planned in the amphitheater, even though congressional leaders said they had asked the Pentagon to allow a special service to be held there.

He will be buried with full military honors. The private burial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. after viewing in the underground chapel ends.

The short news release said nothing about honoring Buckles in the Capitol as his daughter and her supporters have repeatedly requested both before and after he died last month.

The last surviving American World War I veteran, 108-year-old Frank Buckles is seen in 2009.
Alex Ogle, AFP / Getty Images
The last surviving American World War I veteran, seen here in 2009, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on Tuesday.
Susannah Buckles Flanagan had refused to take "no" for an answer after congressional leaders turned down her request to have his remains lie in honor in the rotunda.

A family spokesman told The Associated Press today that it was satisfied with the honors planned at Arlington, which include a presidential order for flags to fly at half-staff at federal buildings on Tuesday.

"Although I'm disappointed that Frank Buckles won't lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, it is meaningful to me and to all of us who care so much about Frank Buckles and our veterans, that the public will be able to pay its respects as he lies in honor at Arlington National Cemetery surrounded by so many brave men and women who fought to protect this country," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Just 32 people have been honored in the U.S. Capitol. Most were presidents, statesmen and military leaders.

As AOL News reported last week, the family of the most decorated soldier of World War I turned down an offer to have his remains lie in the Capitol when he died in 1964.

Despite the decision by Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to honor Buckles at Arlington in a special ceremony and viewing, the veteran's daughter waged a relentless public relations offensive to pressure them to reverse course.

She and her backers in the West Virginia congressional delegation marshaled big guns to make their case. Everyone from former GOP presidential nominee and wounded World War II veteran Bob Dole to the great-grandson of Sir Winston Churchill -- who issued an "urgent statement" that implored President Barack Obama to intervene to allow Buckles to lie in "honour" starting Sunday.

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The plea apparently was ignored as officials rejected politically charged barbs and decided there was a limit on the level of honors owed to Buckles.

Visitation has been scheduled in a quiet neighborhood of northwest Washington, far from Capitol Hill. Those wishing to pay respects to Buckles can file past his coffin from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at Joseph Gawler's Sons Chapel and again from noon to 9 p.m. Monday.

The more modest visitation will be followed by a special ceremony in Arlington's amphitheater. The venue is usually reserved for official memorial services on Easter, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Families of those interring loved ones at Arlington normally hold services in the cemetery's chapel.

A more low-key local service is scheduled for Wednesday at a church in Buckles' hometown of Charles Town, W.Va.

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