Memorial Day: honoring World War I veterans

There is only one American Veteran of World War I left. Cpl. Frank Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia, is 107.

Sadly, France has now lost its last WWI veteran, Lazare
Ponticelli, who died last March at the age of 110. His funeral service was held in the Church of Saint-Louis des Invalides, and attended by President Sarkozy and former President Chirac. Sarkozy spoke on that occasion of the soldiers’ relentless fight, not only against the enemy, but also against “mud, rats, lice, night, cold, fear.”

My own maternal grandfather fought in World War I. He was gased in the midst of the “Verdun meat grinder” in 1916 (700,000 casualties for that battle alone.) Yet he healed and lived to return to the front, then home, marry my grandmother and have four children, the youngest of whom is my mother. He was the last surviving WWI veteran from his town.

Of course, on Memorial Day we honor all veterans, but it is all the more poignant this year to remember those from WWI. Let’s not forget their service, and yet another tragic occasion during which Americans and French fought alongside.

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