In life, he was an unassuming West Virginia farmer. But in death, Frank Buckles, the last remaining American veteran of World War I, has acquired a powerful advocate.
Bob Dole, the former Senate Republican leader and one-time GOP presidential nominee, said Monday that Buckles' remains should lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
"It's the end of an era, so to speak," Dole told National Journal. "It was a war that changed the world, in effect, and it should be recognized. I hope and I think it is going to happen."
Since Buckles died last week at age 110, his family and members of the West Virginia congressional delegation have urged a Capitol viewing so that members of the public can pay their final respects. Although it is an honor normally reserved for presidents and other top elected officials, there have been exceptions, such as civil-rights icon Rosa Parks.
A request for Rotunda honors requires approval from Senate and House congressional leaders. So far, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has refused to grant his consent and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has remained mum on his views.
Boehner has said that he felt a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery would be more appropriate. However, some members of his party disagree. Last week, a senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, urged that the question go to the full House for a vote. Other representatives are expected to press the issue this week.
Dole, who otherwise gave Boehner high marks for his stewardship of the House, adds an influential voice in Buckles' favor. The 87-year-old Kansan served 35 years in Congress and remains a well-connected lobbyist with the firm Alston & Bird. Dole, who was gravely wounded in World War II, has become one of the nation's most visible advocates for veterans. Later this month, the Interior Department will host a ceremony honoring him for the key role he played in raising funds for the World War II Memorial on the National Mall.