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On Idaho Day, state remembers WWI veterans like Pvt. Hansen, Pvt. Neibaur, and Cpl. Buckles

By Linden Bateman
via the Idaho Statesman newspaper web site

Leland HansonLeland Hansen, wearing his WWI Army uniform, shows photos and speaks to a Bonneville High School class in 1976, taught by author Linden Bateman (background).“Idaho Remembers” is the 2018 theme for Idaho Day — March 5 this year — honoring members of the armed forces from Idaho who served during World War I, which ended 100 years ago on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Buckles NeibaurFrank W. Buckles (top), America's longest-living WWI veteran, died in 2011 at age 110; Thomas Neibaur (bottom) was the first person born in Idaho to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.One on the most inspirational memorials to that war can be found within the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church in Idaho Falls, a sacred space hardly changed in a century, with a soft glow coming from its honey-oak furnishings and a hundred shades of color reflected by its stained-glass windows. Within that beautiful glass are etched the names of members of the congregation who served in the Great War, as it came to be known, with gold stars marking the names of those who gave their lives.

I knew several of those men. Marshall Scott owned a book store on Broadway, and Don Wilson, a drug store on Boulevard, with a classic soda fountain and jukebox, where all the high school kids gathered and danced during the 1940s.

Many of my friends, neighbors and teachers were veterans of the war. Leland Hansen lived just down the road from our farm on Iona Road. Each year he would visit my history classes at Bonneville High, dressed in his World War I uniform, and tell stories of sacrifice and heroism he witnessed while serving in France. Leland barely survived the war. One evening following an enemy artillery barrage, he burrowed into a pile of sawdust to sleep, only to wake in the early morning with a dangerously high fever, later diagnosed as the deadly flu sweeping through his division. Leland related that had it not been for a young French nurse providing constant care, he would have surely died.

Delusional and in a dreamlike state of semi-consciousness, he was aware of her image and countenance hovering over him day and night, for days, until he began to heal and she was transferred to another aide station. Pvt. Hansen never saw the woman again and never learned her name. He wept often, yearning to meet and thank the young woman who saved his life.

Now all the World War I veterans are gone and their children will soon pass, leaving the third generation to tell their stories. With the death of Cpl. Frank W. Buckles in 2011 at age 110, America’s last World War I veteran was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, and the Great War has begun to slip from memory. Even its most heroic participants are seldom remembered.

Read the entire article on the Idaho Statesman web site here:

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