Oldest Living Heroes Remembered

Frank Buckles, 105, commemorates Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 2006. Buckles is one of a few living veterans of World War One. CBS

At the appointed hour, the eleventh on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Commander In Chief spoke of a moment that for most of us lives only in history.

"Our nation remembers the moment when the guns of World War I went silent," President Bush said.

But today, as CBS News correspondent Joie Chen reports, one man at Arlington National Cemetery remembers first hand.

"When I went overseas in December, 1917," World War I veteran Frank Buckles says, "I was 16 years old."

Now 105 years old, Buckles is a bit hard of hearing, but sharp as a tack, and fit. He still does 50 sit-ups each morning. And he still shows the same determination he had as a teenager—who lied about his age so he could go to war.

His family says he doesn't talk much about the horrible battlefield casualties he must have seen. But he remembers.

"I had an impression when I arrived in Europe that they were needed sorely and in need of help," Buckles says.

When the armistice finally came, 4.7 million farm boys like Frank Buckles, factory workers, tradesmen, all returned from the "war to end all wars." But today, 88 years later, only a dozen survive.

Men like 106-year-old Russell Buchanan of Massachusetts and 110-year-old Antonio Pierro, who drove a horse and wagon to bring supplies to the front and bring back bodies. All recall the bravery of others, but Buckles adds quickly, don't call him a hero.

"What I am, is, I'm a survivor," Buckles says.

And a man who intends to tell stories that should be remembered for a long time to come.

"I'm not as active as I used to be, but I'm in fairly good condition," he says.

Frank Buckles is already making plans for Veterans Day next year.
  • Melissa McNamara

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