In the same strong voice that made him a Washington leader, Senator Bob Dole told local veterans and college community members today about his experiences as a World War II soldier and champion for all who served, young and old.
"Not everyone who served wore a uniform--teachers, nurses, others had to do their job so we could do ours," Dole said.
He also recognized several veterans in the audience whose stories he'd read during his plane trip to Grinnell.
Professor Emeritus of History George Drake '56 has compiled oral histories of several Poweshiek County veterans.
"The stories tell about the sacrifices men in this city made," Dole said. "So many Americans made sacrifices," he said, and with emotion related, "On D-Day, 10,000 never drew another breath ... never had a chance to go to college ... to be fathers .... There is no way to repay them."
At several times throughout his hour-long talk, Dole also referred to his best-selling book, One Soldier's Story.
"The book isn't about me, it's really about us," Dole said. "Not only what you go through on the battlefield, but what happens to you later, who takes care of you when you return."
Dole is part of a commission working to improve veterans' benefits.
"They called us the greatest generation, but the greatest generation are those protecting us now," Dole said, referring to servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. "They are taking the risks now."
In addition to his serious "Veteran's Perspective on World War II," Dole also engaged the audience with light-hearted stories of his time in Washington as senator from Kansas and later as the 1996 Republican presidential candidate.
"I left politics--wasn't voluntarily, come to think of it. I thought the Senate would close down for at least a day or two. But they didn't. They were doing the same thing--not much--as they were doing when I was there," Dole joked.
He gave high praise to his fellow senator, George McGovern, with whom he shared the World Food Prize this year for their work on world hunger. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, who was also in the Herrick Chapel audience, received Dole's praise as "the hardest working guy in Congress. You are getting your money's worth," he said, referring to Grassley's work on behalf of Iowans.
Originally published as an online web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Winter 2008.