Last American WWI vet calls for memorial

The daughter of America's last surviving World War I veteran on Wednesday called for construction of a monument to those who served in that war to be built in Washington, D.C.

Susannah Buckles Flanagan said she was speaking for her father 109-year-old Frank Buckles during a pre-Veterans Day address at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

She said her father believes the nation needs closure beyond reparations recently completed by Germany.

“While the German people have done much to address the long-ago damages ... our own nation cannot declare closure,” Buckles said through his daughter. “The reason is simple: we still do not have a national memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor the Americans who sacrificed with their lives during World War I.”

Audience members at Cantigny also viewed two exhibits compiled by David DeJonge, founder and president of the National World War I Memorial Foundation. Both exhibits display photographs of the world's veterans from that war.

DeJonge said the foundation chose Cantigny as the main stop on the exhibit's current tour, which includes visits to Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills and St. Joseph School in Kankakee, because of its ties to World War I. Cantigny is the historic estate of Col. Robert R. McCormick, a combat veteran of the war, and is named after Cantigny, France, the site of a significant battle.

The memorial foundation is pushing for a monument to be built in accordance with other commemorations in the capital, such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and the National World War II Memorial completed in 2004.

Buckles' daughter told the Cantigny audience her father believes a monument to his generation's war does not need to be grand, it simply needs to be built.

“These are difficult times and we are not asking for anything elaborate,” she said, quoting her father. “What is fitting and right is a memorial that can take its place among those commemorating the other great conflicts of the past century.”