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Bob Dole humbled by Kansas delegation effort to promote him to Army colonel

Bob Dole on Wednesday, September 2, 2015, at the V-J Day 70th Anniversary Commemoration at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. (ROBERT TURTIL/US Department of Veterans Affairs)

Members of the Kansas delegation to Congress are working to advance the decorated military career of Bob Dole, the former U.S. senator who was badly wounded as a solider in World War II.

The U.S. Senate last week passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Jerry Moran that would promote the 95-year-old Russell native from captain to colonel in the Army.

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, from Kansas’ 1st District, is pushing for the bill to gain traction in the House.

“I am humbled to know that my friends in the Kansas delegation made it a priority to honor me in this way,” Dole said. “I was certainly proud to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II — alongside many heroes who never returned to American soil. To me personally, this legislation is a shared honor.”

Dole joined the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1942 and was called to active duty the following year. He was deployed to Italy as an infantry lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division, and he was wounded in 1945 when German machine gun fire struck him in the upper back and right arm.

Dole was cited for acts of heroism under fire and received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star. His injuries left him with numbness in his left arm and limited mobility in his right arm, which he minimized in public by holding a pen in his right hand.

“Bob Dole is an American hero and Kansas’ favorite son,” Roberts said. “I’m proud my colleagues in the Senate acted quickly to pass this important legislation, which will give Senator Dole the military promotion he has earned during his decades of service to our country.”

Dole won election to the Kansas Legislature in 1950 and became the Russell County attorney two years later. He represented Kansas in the U.S. House from 1961-1969, then spent the next 27 years in the U.S. Senate. He stepped down in 1996, when he became the Republican nominee for president.

In Congress, he cosponsored bills to improve veterans benefits, improve accountability for missing members of the Armed Forces and recognize women veterans, among other initiatives.

“I can think of no one more worthy of an honorary promotion to the rank of colonel in the United States Army than Senator Bob Dole, who has for decades served our country with the utmost distinction,” Moran said. “From his time in the military and in Congress, to his continued leadership on veterans, hunger and disability issues, he is a true model of public service for Kansans and all Americans.”

Marshall’s staff is working with the House Armed Services Committee to advance the honorary promotion and has asked House leadership to bring the bill forward.

“It was really good to see the Senate take swift action on this,” Marshall said. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this honorary promotion than Kansas’ finest, Senator Dole. I now call on the House to honor his exemplary service and sacrifices to this country and pass this legislation.”

Last year, Dole received the Congressional Gold Medal as President Donald Trump hailed his “extraordinary life.” In September, Washburn University unveiled a bronze statue of Dole on campus. In November, he was inducted into the Russell County Hall of Fame.

In a poignant moment in December, he saluted former President George H.W. Bush as his casket was displayed in the Capitol Rotunda.

“Bob Dole’s legacy of valor in combat and lifelong career of selfless service to the nation represents the highest ideals and values of the Army as well as the Greatest Generation,” said Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff.


© 2019 The Topeka Capital-Journal, Kan.

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