Friday, August 7, 2009
World War I Vets Nearly Extinct
And then there were officially three.
According to AFP and Wikipedia, just three men of the millions of personnel to be veterans of the War to End All Wars or World War I still survive. This after the recent death of 111-year old Briton Harry Patch. Just the week before, another World War I veteran, 113-year old Henry Allingham passed away.
According to the AFP, 108-year old American Frank Buckles and 108-year old Brit Claude Choules are two remaining vets of what many consider to be the terrible first modern war. Wikipedia adds Canadian John Henry Foster Babcock, 109, as a veteran of the conflict citing CBC News as its source. These three men constitute what's left of the tens of millions that fought in the war. The Wikipedia article also lists two other men as vets of the era. One is an unverified British vet of the war, 106 year old Douglas Edward Terrey, and the other, Jozéf Kowalski, is a Polish World War I-era vet.
The number of veterans of the first World War have dropped off significantly in the last 10 years. Wikipedia tracks the number of deaths of World War I vets by year. In 1999, 782 World War I vets died and that number grew smaller each year with just 17 passing last year. Five have died this year, according to the online encyclopedia. Leaving just a handful of verified or unverified vets.
A great uncle of mine, Fred Easter, was a World War I veteran. According to my grandmother, he was gassed by the Germans and suffered tremendous nervous system damage and psychological problems after the attack. It was a truly horrid war...as all wars are...and the death of these brave veterans one-by-one gives us pause and a moment to remember them for their sacrifices to the world and to their countries.
Even the survivors of the war were greatly effected by what happened in front of them, and it no doubt shaped their lives from the moment the war ended. I salute the living and dead World War I veterans and all those veterans of wars living and dead before and after the "War to End All Wars" took place.
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