One of the most emotional moments of the memorials for President George Herbert Walker Bush so far was the video of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kansas) paying his respects before the president’s flag-draped casket as it lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building.
Dole, who is 95-years-old, approached President Bush’s casket in a wheelchair. An aide helped the senator to stand and, as he stood shakily, still assisted by supporting arms, Dole gave the former commander-in-chief a salute. After holding the salute for a moment, his assistant eased Dole back into his chair as the Marine honor guard looked on. Dole gazed at the casket containing the remains of his friend and comrade-in-arms for a long moment before being wheeled away.
Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush were among the “greatest generation.” Before entering government service, both men were veterans of World War II. Where Bush was a Navy pilot in the Pacific, Dole fought the Germans as an infantryman. Originally an enlisted man, Dole was promoted to second lieutenant in the army’s 10th Mountain Division. In April 1945, he was severely wounded in combat in Italy, leaving him with limited use of his right arm for the rest of his life.
After the war, Dole served in House of Representatives from 1960-1969 and the Senate from 1969 through 1996. During that time, he held the positions of both minority and majority leader as well as chairman of the Republican National Committee. In these roles, he worked closely with President Bush and the two became friends.
Dole’s tribute to his fallen comrade was touching on a number of levels. The gesture was difficult for the aged veteran and reflects not only professional respect for a fallen leader, but brotherly love for a comrade in arms and a departed friend.