Daughters of the American Revolution host 100th anniversary World War I remembrance service
About 25 people gathered in Sherwood's Pleasant View Cemetery Thursday for a "World War I Centennial Remembrance," sponsored by the Champoeg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The tribute, held at the bucolic cemetery just off of Westfall Road, not only marked the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the First World War but also paid tribute to the 34 World War I veterans buried there.
Among the guest speakers were Greg Leo, owner of the Leo Company (who is actively involved in local historic projects and organizations), and Ken Buckles of Remembering America's Heroes, a non-profit group whose mission is to educate the public about the sacrifices made by military veterans.
Buckles' great uncle, Frank Buckles died in 2011, officially becoming the last American World War I veteran to die.
"The funeral was at Arlington and the funeral was amazing," he said before the event, noting that both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were in attendance.
Jan Burrows, regent for the Champoeg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, acted as emcee for the event, turning it over to Leo who spoke about the importance of those who served in World War I.
"Today is not a day of celebration, today is a day of commemoration," said Leo, who is involved in historical societies in both Champoeg and Butteville.
Leo said the country debated the question of whether to enter World War I for a long time, with many believing it wasn't the United States' duty. However, President Woodrow Wilson saw it differently.
In the end, 116,516 U.S. soldiers would lose their lives with 200,000 wounded before the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, was signed.
"This was a greater casualty rate then we had in World War II," Leo pointed out. "We had the end of a conflict; that was not the end of war."
Meanwhile, Buckles, the executive director of Remembering America's Heroes, said he once asked his Uncle Frank what his inspiration was for fighting in World War I and was told it came from the influences of former Civil War veterans who often spoke about the fighting for a "glorious cause."
"He said we had to get into the war," recalled Buckles. "We had no idea what the nightmares of the war would be."
During the war, Uncle Frank would serve as an American Red Cross ambulance driver, a distinction shared by such luminaries as Walt Disney and Ernest Hemingway. Later, the elder Buckles would be held as a prisoner of war during World War II.
Buckles noted that his Uncle Frank had a handmade poster listing the last surviving members of previous wars. For World War I, he simply had drawn a question mark, said Buckles, who told his elderly uncle that he believed he would remain the lone survivor. Uncle Frank agreed, pointing out that he thought he could make it if he reached the age of 107.
Although Buckles and others sought burial for Uncle Frank in Arlington National Cemetery when he died in West Virginia at age 110, they were turned down numerous times. However, it was the efforts of Ross Perot, the billionaire entrepreneur and former presidential candidate, who would ensure that such a distinction would come to fruition.
One day Buckles said he received a phone call from Perot who said, "Kenny, I got this covered."
Before long, President George W. Bush approved the burial site as well.
During the Pleasant View memorial tribute, Buckles' wife, Melinda, sang both "Over There" (a song written in 1917 and widely used by the military during World War I) and "God Bless America."
Meanwhile, Wilsonville City Councilor Lehan said at least 34 gravesites have been identified as the final resting places of World War I veterans at the cemetery.
"That's how many we have identified," said Lehan. "We certainly have more than that."
She then read the names of all those known First World War veterans buried there.
Near the end of the program, Dawson Durig, a Wilsonville Boy Scout who refurbished the cemetery's rusted flagpole and made sure each veteran's grave was accompanied by a heavy brass medallion, said he was moved to do his part at the cemetery after meeting an elderly man who was cleaning the grave of his father who had served during World War I.
Durig said the man at the cemetery told him his father had been gassed twice during World War I. The second time the man's father was gassed he wasn't wearing a gas mask and the aftermath on his health was noticeable.
"Because of World War I he didn't get to see his father much," said Durig, who received the National Outstanding Youth Volunteer for Veterans award from the Daughters of the American Revolution for his work at Pleasant View Cemetery.
At the end of the program, members of the Champoeg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution laid a wreath on the monument dedicated to veterans. Lois Streimer, a charter member of the Champoeg chapter, then read the poem "In Flanders Fields," a tribute to those who died during the war:
"Short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,Loved and were loved, and now we lieIn Flanders fields."
For a video of the remembrance service, visit sherwoodpost56.org.