[On Tuesday, November 11, 2015, Paso Robles Mayor Steven W. Martin welcomed visitors to the Paso Robles District Cemetery for the annual Veterans Day ceremony.]
It is my honor as Mayor of the City of Paso Robles, to be here today and, on behalf of the Paso Robles City Council, to welcome you to these ceremonies.
When Frank Buckles was 16 he tried to join the Marines. He claimed to be 18. They told him he had to be 21. He tried again, claiming to be 21, but they said he wasn’t heavy enough. He tried the Navy. They said he had flat feet. He went to the Army, lied about his age again and finally was given a uniform.
Frank Buckles was, indeed, a very persistent man.
He trained at Fort Riley, Kansas. Then he shipped out for France and the Great War, the War to End All Wars, World War I. He drove an ambulance, trained for trench retrieval and eventually was assigned to escort German prisoners of war home after Armistice Day.
Frank Buckles was a civilian during the second great war, World War II. He had the misfortune of being in the Phillipines, however. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese and held in a prison camp for three and half years before being liberated by the 11th Airborne Division on Feb. 23 1945. By that time he had lost 50 pounds.
Yes, Frank Buckles was a very persistent man.
During the later years of his life he championed the memories of his fellow Doughboys, keeping their courage and victories alive in the hearts and minds of Americans. He supported the development of a World War I monument and was the subject of a motion picture:
“Pershing’s Last Patriot: The Frank Woodruff Buckles Story.”
On February 27, 2011, Corporal Frank Buckles died at the age of 110. He was the last American World War I veteran.
It’s said that 90-percent of being successful is simply showing up for the job. Frank Buckles showed up early and stayed late, as have thousands of his brothers and sisters in arms over the years. They have showed up in the trenches and in the forests of Europe. They have showed up in the jungled islands of the Pacific. They have showed up in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere. They have showed up on the waves and under them and in every piece of sky on the planet.
They are persistent people, these soldiers, these Marines, these sailors, these airmen. They just keep showing up. They show up when we need a wall between the innocent and the evil, between the bullies and the beaten, between the right and the wrong.
Yes, our veterans are persistent people.
We all are.
We persist, even to this day, to visit our memorials, our statues and, yes, our cemeteries. We persist in raising the flag in our hometowns, just as they persisted in raising it in foreign lands around the globe. We persist in remembering their names, their faces and their service.
Today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour, we persist.
We persist in our memories of the heroes of the first great war, the conflict which ended in Armistice Day, which has become what we call Veterans Day. We persist in our gratitude for the brave men and women who have donned their country’s uniforms and spread out across the globe wherever needed, whatever the challenge, whenever the call.
We persist in our identity as Americans, a condition that transcends our differences and makes us one people, under God, indivisible… persisting still on our belief in, nay our demand for, liberty and justice for all. It is a persistence we were called to at the inception of our nation. It is a persistence we were reminded of on the field of Gettysburg by President Abraham Lincoln. It is a persistence that we hold onto today and into the future.
And so, to that end, we hold up the memory of Corporal Frank Buckles and all those like him, living and dead, who have persisted in the defense of our country.
We hold our hands over our hearts. We salute the tips of our caps. We pledge again to invest in the freedom they have won and held for us, persisting as the land of the free and the home of the brave.
In that spirit of remembrance, gratitude and persistence, it is my great pleasure and honor on behalf of your City Council and the entire City of Paso Robles to welcome you to today’s ceremony.
Thank you very much.