Sen. Dole surprises vets at World War II MemorialWASHINGTON — Word spread quickly throughout the World War II Memorial Saturday morning, April 30, that a special visitor was perched on a wooden stool near the entrance.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WASHINGTON — Word spread quickly throughout the World War II Memorial Saturday morning, April 30, that a special visitor was perched on a wooden stool near the entrance.
Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, a World War II veteran who served as national chair of the fundraising campaign to build the memorial, had stopped by to visit with members of his generation — the greatest generation — to offer handshakes and a word of thanks.
Just three weeks prior, Dole was at the memorial to receive accolades of his own. During a special ceremony on April 12, the 87-year-old had a plaque dedicated in his honor for his “tireless support of America’s veterans and the World War II Memorial.” The plaque was installed near the main concourse of the memorial.
Veterans aboard Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota were surprised by the appearance, and pleased that Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, took time to visit them at their memorial.
“He’s always been kind of a favorite of mine,” said Teel Fransen of Jackson. “I was glad to see him — I didn’t expect it.”
Fransen said he was surprised by how tall Dole was, while Mike Michelson of Cottonwood said the former GOP candidate for president was “getting pretty old.”
Dole was severely wounded 66 years ago while fighting in Italy during World War II, and he now tries to schedule visits to the memorial when a large contingent of Honor Flight participants are arriving.
The World War II Memorial was dedicated on the National Mall in 2004. It features twin towers, symbolizing the battles fought across two oceans — the Atlantic and Pacific — and 56 pillars to represent each of the United States, territories and the District of Columbia.
Fransen said seeing all of the children at the memorial waving banners of thanks and offering cards, hugs and photo opportunities really impressed him.
“We have a wonderful country,” he said. “We hear all the bad stuff on the news, but there’s a lot of good stuff out here too.”
Sheldon Sandager of Hills said he not only enjoyed the World War II Memorial, but the entire trip. A veteran of the Navy Air Corps, he was reluctant to make the Honor Flight trip because he felt as though veterans who served in combat should have the first opportunity.
His children finally coaxed him into taking the flight.
“I was told they lost just as many pilots in training as they did actual combat. I almost believe that is true,” Sandager said.
Overall, the World War II veteran said the Honor Flight was wonderful.
“I was most delighted in meeting the little children there,” Sandager said. “They would come up to you and give you a card about how thankful they were for what the military people had done for them.”