Lincoln’s Respect for Soldiers

Abraham Lincoln honored and respected our nation’s soldiers. The story goes that when he was a young lad he came upon a soldier from the War of 1812 returning home and gave him a fish he had just caught. As a young man, Lincoln became a soldier himself-in the militia. He got a taste for what soldiering was like. As Commander-In-Chief, Lincoln’s heart was always for the soldier. Remember how angry he got at Mary Todd who had spent funds so lavishly on White House “flub-dubs?” Lincoln gave her a scolding reminding her of the soldiers in the field (and their needs)-compared to the needs of updating White House decorations. I was always also impressed with Lincooln’s respect for General Winfield Scott. The General was a national hero but too old by the time of Lincoln’s presidency to fully be what was needed for that hour. Still, Lincoln gave him responsibilites and due honor for what he had done for the nation as a soldier.  Lincoln’s greatest heartache, of course, was that he knew he was personally responsible for sending thousands of young soldiers to their deaths. Perhaps this explains in some measure why he looked for any chance to commute the death sentences of condemned soldiers when he could. Lincoln, I think, would have given great honor and respect to a fallen old soldier in the news of late: Mr. Frank Buckles.

An article in The American Legion magazine (April 2011), entitled: “I Never Thought I’d Be the Last One” by Ken Olsen gives the amazing story of this gentleman. Frank Buckles was the last living American World War I veteran. Sadly, he passed away on February 27, 2011 at the age of 110.  I quote the article:

“Buckles’ storied life-forged as a Missouri farm boy, Army ambulance driver, international ship’s purser and freight expediter, and World War II prison-camp survivor-was harrowing, inspiring, courageous, and historic. He survived the Spanish flu pandemic, witnessed black U.S. track-and-field star Jesse Owens win a gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and bumped into Adolf Hitler on the stairs of a German hotel during the dictator’s rise to power. He was the last of the generation of soldiers that founded The American Legion, and the oldest person to ever testify before Congress.”  In World War I, he “joined the ambulance service on the advice of a sergeant who told him it was a quick way to get to France. He trained in ambulance operations and “trench casualty retrieval,” as he described it at Fort Riley, Kan. Buckles sailed for England in December 1917. His detachment replaced a unit of the 6th Marines at a military hospital near Winchester. He was finally assigned to escort an officer from another unit to France. Buckles served along the Western Front for the duration of the war.”

No wonder Abraham Lincoln described America as the world’s “last best hope.” Individuals like Frank Buckles make it evidently so. Lincoln would have been proud of him-and so are we as patriotic Americans.


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