Last Doughboy Dies

I read to day that the last veteran of World War I died at the age of 110. The war ended in 1918, 92 years ago. I might be possible that there is still a European veteran left who signed up at a very young age, but it isn’t likely. They are all gone.

I find this a little shocking because I can remember seeing one or two civil war veterans in parades along with Spanish American war veterans back in the 1950s. The Civil War vets were usually drummer boys who went off to war to play the drums for units with their brother’s or father’s. So in 1955 it was reasonable that a man in his late 90s might have been a drummer boy in the Civil War.

Soon, all the WWII vets will be gone. My Dad, my Uncles, and all of my Dad’s cousins that served in the war are gone. I dream about my Dad, and have conversations with him in the dreams, from time to time. I dreamed about him last night. It seems hard to believe that the greatest generation has almost ended.

Because I saw actual vets from some of America’s earlier wars, I feel more closely connected with history. Since I have been doing a little genealogy and discovered that at least two dozen ancestors fought in the Revolution, and at least a hundred came to this country before 1700 including a few Mayflower immigrants, I tend to see the United States as a process rather than a static thing.

The conquest of the new world and the birth of our nation must seem impossibly remote to young people. Many don’t know anyone who fought in the second World War, and might not even have heard of the First World War or the Spanish American War. The Civil War would be the stuff of old movies and not seem real to them.

One Comment

  1. Mike Carter wrote:

    Very well said. The United States is a process rather than a static thing. And I too have conversations with my father, and sometimes my mother, in dreams. Both died a few yaars ago. These dreams are so fequent that their passing has become bearable.

    As a former high school teacher and often hearing “How am I supposed to know that? It happened before I was born!,” I’m sadly aware of how the idea of history has become quaint and the just stuff of movies, as you mentioned. Our place, it seems, is on the treadmill of what’s happening at the moment. We binge on technology as though nothing else mattered.

    If you haven’t read either of Neil Postman’s books, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” or “Technopoly,” you’re in for a treat.

    Friday, March 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink