WASHINGTON -- The last caisson to honor the generation that fought World War I will roll Tuesday afternoon when Army Cpl. Frank Buckles is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, within sight of his commanding general.
The last American doughboy will lay in honor in an underground chapel at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington until 2 p.m., when public visitation will close to give the Buckles family time to pay their last respects.
A graveside burial service open to the public is scheduled for 4 p.m. Buckles will be interred in Arlington’s Section 34, the final resting place for General John Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Forces in what was to have been the war to end all wars.
Buckles died Feb. 27 at the age of 110. He will be buried with full military honors, to include an escort platoon, a casket team, firing party and a bugler from the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard."
Tuesday’s burial brings to a close two weeks of sometimes contentious back-and-forth over how Buckles should be honored. His daughter, Susannah Buckles Flanagan, had pushed to have his casket lie in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda as a way to honor not only him but all American veterans of the war.
Despite pressure from West Virginia’s congressional delegation to give the Charles Town resident an honor only afforded to 32 other Americans -- most of them presidents, statesmen and generals -- House and Senate leaders agreed on a bipartisan basis that a life long lived was not sufficient cause to lie in the Rotunda. Indeed, the family of one of the most decorated soldiers of the war turned down the honor when he died in 1964.
The family relented last week, arranging a public viewing Sunday and Monday at a Washington funeral home before Tuesday’s visitation in Arlington.