Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

Posted on Monday, March 17th, 2008 at 8:52 am. About News and Politics.

France loses its last World War I veteran

I saw this article early this morning, announcing that the last living World War I veteran in France, Lazare Ponticelli, had died at the age of 110. He was born in 1897 in Italy and emigrated at the age of nine, volunteering to serve for France when he was 16 (and, like the last American surviving WWI veteran, having to lie about his age to enlist). I thought of my great-grandfather, whom I remember quite vividly as he did not pass away until I was 15. He was born one year later than Ponticelli, in 1898. How is it possible that he would be turning 110 this summer if he was living?

From two million American men who served in WWI, there is now only one – Frank Buckles, who was 107 years old this past Veterans Day. Only one! Before we know it, this will be the case with World War II veterans. I am so grateful for people like Ken Burns, whose documentary The War beautifully captures the essence that was World War II (written by someone who actually cannot fathom what it was like to be involved in that war, but the closest I have come to feeling like I understand it was from viewing his documentary).

It is sad that many of the stories, if not captured in the near upcoming years, of the second World War may die along with those who experienced them. The reason to study history is supposedly to learn from it and avoid making the same mistakes again in the future. Of course, there are millions of people alive who remember the Vietnam era well, and this has not prevented us from repeating some of those mistakes.

Rest in peace, Lazare Ponticelli, and thank you for protecting freedom (it doesn’t always have to be American freedom for which people are fighting to be worth honoring the soldier). He stated at one point that his enlistment was his way of thanking France for being the country that fed him after he left Italy – what amazing gratitude.

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