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Daughter: WWI vet should lie in Capitol Rotunda

The Associated Press
Saturday, March 5, 2011; 6:11 PM

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- The daughter of the longest-living American to serve in World War I urged lawmakers to let her father, Frank Buckles, lie in the Capitol Rotunda to honor all the war's veterans.

"There is no one left," Susannah Buckles Flanagan wrote in a statement to The Associated Press. "If we lost the opportunity to bestow this highest of honors on the person who was the last surviving representative, there can be no making it up later."

Buckles died Feb. 27 at age 110.

Leaders in Washington have been divided over how to best honor Buckles and the 4.7 million other Americans who served during World War I.

West Virginia lawmakers want to see him lie in the Capitol Rotunda, and are upset with House and Senate leaders who have objected.

Flanagan, 55, said her father wanted to lie in the Rotunda after his death - not as a personal honor but in memory of all veterans of World War I.

"He looked upon this as his final duty, which he took seriously," Flanagan said.

"If the last American soldier surviving is not suitable to serve as a symbol around which we can rally to honor those who served their country in the Great War, then who can serve that purpose?" she said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are seeking Pentagon permission to conduct ceremonies in the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, where Buckles will be buried.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., authored a House resolution approving a Rotunda ceremony for Buckles. The gesture also has the backing of West Virginia's two U.S. senators.

Lying in honor - called lying in state in the case of elected U.S. officials or military officers - has occurred only 30 times since Sen. Henry Clay was the first to be recognized in 1852.

David DeJonge, Buckles' biographer and the family spokesman, said the debate over how Buckles should be honored has put the family in a precarious position one week after his death.

"We want to afford every American full opportunity to pay honor and respect to that symbol of a great generation," he said.

Flanagan said no extraordinary precedent would be made by honoring Buckles in the Capitol Rotunda.

"The next similar request will come for the last survivor of World War II in 25 or 30 years' time, and it will be appropriate to honor that person, as well," she wrote.

President Barack Obama has ordered that flags on U.S. government buildings fly at half-staff on the day Buckles is buried.

© 2011 The Associated Press