Former Senator Dole meets, inspires Milwaukee's WWII vets
WASHINGTON - Some Milwaukee-area veterans got a chance to meet a decorated and wounded war hero, a former Presidential candidate who helped ensure the World War II memorial was built, Senator Bob Dole.
"They're fighting to get pictures with him," said a man at the World War II memorial on Saturday about the crowd that surrounded Dole when he came to meet World War II veterans.
Dole is nearly 90 years old, but here, he is a rock star.
"They forgot about us, but he remembered and got people to give to the memorial, and I appreciate it very much," said Glendale Army vet Sammy Ratliff.
He was one of the few to shake hands, take pictures and share a few moments with the Senator and his wife Elizabeth, who also happens to be a former Senator.
"It was an experience for me, because I've seen him on television for many years," said Ratliff.
Senator Dole comes to the memorial to meet each Honor Flight from across the country, as long as he is healthy.
He joked about his social calendar when Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jodi Becker asked him why he he makes time to be at the memorial.
"I couldn't get Law and Order this morning," quipped Dole. "No, I come out...Elizabeth comes out with me."
Senator Dole sits on a stool with Elizabeth stationed protectively behind him.
"We love to visit the memorial, and meet these wonderful veterans who saved our country, our freedom," explained Elizabeth.
"What a legacy they have. This is the best day of the week."
The gland-handing lasts as long as each vet wants it too. Dole seems to treat it as a new mission.
"I feel bad that we delayed the building so many years, because were were down about 2.5 million WWII veterans out of 16.5 million."
John Nevins is a Waukesha Navy vet who also saw the senator.
"He spends the day here, seeing veterans like us, of all kinds, sizes and shapes, taking pictures with him. He's not trying to hustle for money. He must have a real emotional feeling about this place and our country," explained Nevins through tears.
Senator Dole gave a speech at the memorial's 2004 dedication, saying in part:
"We have raised this memorial to commemorate the service and sacrifice of an entire generation. What we dedicate today is not a memorial to war, rather it's a tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes heroes out of farm and city boys and that inspires Americans in every generation to lay down their lives for people they will never meet, for ideals that make life itself worth living."