Claude Stanley Choules, the last known combat veteran of World War I, died Thursday at a nursing home in the Western Australia city of Perth, his family said. He was 110.
I am a little surprised that I didn’t see this sooner. According to MSNBC, the last known combat veteran of WWI died back in May. Having grown up with songs like “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” and “The Green Fields of France,” I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the “Forgotten Generation.” It was a great and terrible war that we thought would be enough to end all wars, but we’ve seen many wars since then.
I wonder what Claude thought of all the wars that have been fought since he set down his tin hat and gun. I wonder what our legacies will be. We live in a strange time where there are more nuclear weapons in existence than needed to kill the entire Earth many times over. How close our lives swing in pendulous and delicate balances of power.
Yet through all this, I find the Earth and its people can be as rich in love and kindness as it can be self-destructive and angry. Again, a delicate balance of many good things and many things that aren’t so good. I think our natures are being played out as we fight the urgings of our DNA with the knowledge we gain in each lifetime.
I am looking towards the future with much hope, though I know that one slight thing could bring about a sad and dreary end. As the “Forgotten Generation” finally is taken from living breathing beings and immortalized into the pages of history, I hope that such a generation shall never have to live that way again.