After a lifetime of serving his country, Bob Dole, a former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, has a final mission: continue to serve his country. At 94, his service looks a little different these days, but the World War II veteran still has plenty left to give.
Every Saturday, Dole suits up and heads to the National World War II Memorial. It’s not a quick and easy journey — just getting dressed takes roughly half an hour, as a nurse helps clothe the veteran’s battered, injured and aging body.
Dole has worn battle scars nearly his entire life after a World War II battle in Italy left him with permanent physical disabilities. His left arm has some function, his right arm and shoulder have none.
But as Dole arrives at the memorial and makes his way from the car to his wheelchair, people start to notice.
“Oh, my gosh, Bob Dole!” visitors exclaim, eager to meet the man who has spent a lifetime serving America.
Dole finds a shady spot to shield him from the summer heat, and smiles as busloads of World War II veterans stop to say hello. Most of the aging veterans arrive at the memorial at no cost, thanks to the nonprofit Honor Flight Network.
Dole remains at the memorial for as long as his body can stand the heat and humidity. He greets each veteran, finding out where they are from and where they served.
“It’s just about the one public service left that I’m doing,” Dole said. “We don’t have many of the World War II vets left. It’s important to me.”
Dole led the campaign to raise the $170 million for the World War II Memorial that opened in 2004.
Sometimes, Dole’s wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, joins him. “It’s great, all these tremendous men and women,” she says.
“Bob has a goal,” Elizabeth Dole says. “He wants to make a positive difference in one person’s life every day.”
As Dole trades stories with veterans, he finds himself energized, eyes sparkling with life.
Dole tends to leave politics out of his chats, choosing instead to focus on cultivating national unity.
“I tell them it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what war you served in, whether you were wounded or not wounded,” Dole says. “We’re all in this together.”
- Kim Davis (PHOTO: Getty Images)