Old weather-beaten bronze statues like the one pictured above still stand in many towns and cities all across America. And very sadly these days, hardly anyone even gives them a second look. This one happens to stand in a small town in Indiana.
And these old weather-beaten statues were erected long ago to honor World War I American soldiers, affectionately known as ‘Doughboys.’
The origin of this term is unclear in History, but one of the most commonly held explanations is that it came into use in the Civil War in reference to the dumpling-shaped buttons on a Union Soldier’s jacket.
Others claim that the term dates back to the Mexican-American War, or actually originated from an early form of the doughnut, called the ‘doughboy.’
Still others claim the term stems from 1916 when the U.S. infantry was sent into Mexico looking for Pancho Villa; and they were constantly covered with dust from marching through the very dry terrain of northern Mexico, giving them the constant appearance of unbaked dough.
And yet another explanation is that ‘doughboy’ actually refers to the extremely ‘soft’ condition of the young U.S. soldiers who entered World War I.
But these young American troops didn’t remain soft for very long; no soldier ever does in a time of war.
And today, only four of these tough American Doughboys are known to be still alive.
They are: John Babcock, age 102, from Puget Sound, Washington; Frank Buckles, age 106, Charles Town, West Virginia; Russell Coffey, age 108, North Baltimore, Ohio; and Harry Landis, age 107, Sun City Center, Florida.
Babcock is an American who served in the Canadian Army. The other three survivors were in the U.S. Army.
And, unbelievably, none of these four brave Americans has ever applied for veteran benefits.
And with the number of known living American veterans of World War I now sadly standing at only four, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently seeking public assistance in determining whether there are other Doughboys still alive.
“These veterans have earned the gratitude and respect of the nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson. “We are coming to the end of a generation that helped bring the United States to the center of the international arena.”
The Secretary is now asking members of the general public who know of any other surviving World War I veterans to contact the VA.
To qualify as a World War I veteran, someone must have been on active duty in the armed forces between April 6, 1917 and Nov. 11, 1918. VA is also looking for surviving Americans who served in the armed forces of allied nations.
Any information about additional Doughboy survivors can be e-mailed to ww1.va.gov; faxed to (202) 273-6702; or snail mailed to:
The Office of Public Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs (80)
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
About 4.7 million men and women served in the U.S. armed forces during World War I, and about 53,000 of them died in combat, while another 204,000 were wounded.
If you know of any other surviving Doughboys, please let us all know.
April 6th will mark the 90th Anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I. The brave soldiers who went 'Over There' thought they were fighting the 'war to end all wars.'
But very sadly, it was not. The U.S. has been involved in five major conflicts since then, including the current war in Iraq.
And the next time you pass one of these old bronze Doughboy statues, please pause for a minute or two in silent respect.