Oldest U.S. WWI vet turns 109

Feb. 1, 2010 at 9:34 PM

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I, who has turned 109, is urging Congress to decide soon between two rival sites for a WWI veterans' memorial.

Frank Buckles, who turned 109 Monday at his farmhouse in West Virginia, renewed a call he has been making for several years for Congress to give federal recognition to a memorial in an out-of-the-way spot near the National Mall in Washington, CNN reported. He testified on the issue on Capitol Hill in December as lawmakers held hearings on whether the give the monument national status and authorize funding to upgrade it, the report said.

Congress has also been considering whether to give formal recognition to a memorial established in the 1920s in Kansas City, Mo.

Among the guests at Buckles' 109th birthday celebration Monday was Army Sgt. Gustavo Rodriguez, who escorted Buckles during a 2008 trip to Washington and recently completed a tour of duty in Iraq, CNN said.

Buckles was a corporal in the Army during World War I, driving an ambulance in Europe.

In 2008, when he was guest of honor at Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, he said it was his duty to stand up for his fellow soldiers, CNN reported.

"I have to," he said, "because I'm the last living member of Americans" who fought in World War I.

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