Senator Dole asked me to keep this story low key, and I have honored his wishes until his passing this week.
My 85-year-old dad lay dying in a hospital bed here in Chattanooga, never to make it to visit the WWII memorial in Washington, dedicated to all those of our "Greatest Generation" that bravely served our nation in battle. I left a voice message for the senator, explaining that as a frontline scout serving in the Philippines in 1943, Dad beat the odds, survived the war, and returned to his young bride and son. I asked if the senator might send Dad a WWII memorial picture, and perhaps a signed picture of himself, since Dad only had days or maybe a week or so to live, and I would never have the chance to take him to see the magnificent memorial that Senator Dole had such an important roll in seeing to completion.
I received a call back from Dawn, the senator's secretary, telling me that Senator Dole listened to my voice message and wanted to send the requested items to Dad by express mail. He asked if after Dad received the gifts, could he perhaps talk to him? I said of course, and would call their office as soon as the package arrived. The next morning, just as promised, a large package arrived and I immediately took it to Dad's bedside. Being an old time Baptist preacher, Dad wasn't much on titles, and even with a college theology degree, he would always say "just call me brother George, only my Savior is 'reverend'." Knowing Dad, as I handed him Senator Dole's package, I told him that the senator would soon call him, and "remember Dad!, he's Senator Dole, senator!"
"Oh yes, son," he confirmed, and we awaited Dole's call. Sure enough, the phone rang and it was the senator's secretary, Dawn. She said the senator had arrived at his office and could he speak to my dad. I turned, covering the phone and whispered, "Dad, it's Senator Dole, Senator Dole Dad!" "Yes, son," he responded. You guessed it, he answered and said "Hello Bob."
The kind senator said, "Hello, George." They talked for several minutes, reliving their experiences in the war as two old soldiers might do. Finally Dad turned to me and said, "Bob wants to talk to you," never once referring to him as senator.
I took the receiver and said, "Hello, Senator." He said, "Hello, Bill." I then said, "Senator, my family and I deeply appreciate you taking out time from your busy schedule to do this for Dad, just a simple old preacher."
The senator responded by saying, "Bill, if I can't be here for the soldiers that served and died for our freedom, I don't deserve to be here either. Let's just keep this call between George and me, as two old soldiers reliving our youthful service to our nation." I assured him I would.
He asked me to call on him if I ever got to Washington. Sadly I never made the trip. Dad passed away a few days later.
I feel that now I can tell this story of a great senator and selfless man who was wounded in battle for his country, and went on to faithfully serve his country in Washington for the rest of his life, never forgetting all those that sacrificed so much for our freedom.
God bless you, Senator. May you rest in peace.