Sen. Bob Dole, a World War II veteran who served in public office for 45 years, turns 97 this month and his family wants you to help celebrate a joint birthday with his wife Elizabeth, who turns 84.
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is asking well-wishers to sign a virtual card for Dole and his wife, a former North Carolina senator and a former cabinet member, as they both approach birthdays in late July. Senator Bob’s daughter, Robin Dole, helped spread the word about the card in partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which supports military caregivers.
“Every year we celebrate another birthday I think about how lucky I am to have my dad in my life,” Robin Dole wrote in a media release. “I hope you will join me in celebrating their service to our nation by signing their birthday card.”
Dole was born in Russell, Kansas on July 22, 1923. While studying at the University of Kansas, Dole enlisted in the Army Reserve and was called to active duty six months later. Dole earned the rank of second lieutenant in 1944 and served in the 85th Mountain Regiment, 10th Mountain Division while deployed to Europe.
Dole was severely injured in Italy when his company became trapped in an exposed area and was hit with enemy fire, according to Dole’s archived 1996 campaign website. After helping a fellow soldier, Dole was hit in the shoulder by a German bullet, injuring his collarbone and spine. Dole was given a shot of morphine, marked on the forehead with a letter “M” in his own blood, and taken to a military hospital where he was not expected to live.
Following the injury, Dole was paralyzed from the neck down and placed in a full body cast, according to the campaign website. He was soon sent back to Kansas where he caught a high fever and was given penicillin and a kidney operation. Dole miraculously recovered from the fever and began his long road to rehabilitation. Dole received two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for Valor among other honors to his military achievements and sacrifices.
Continuing service to the nation
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While he recovered, Dole returned to school and received a law degree from Washburn University before winning a seat in the Kansas state legislature. In 1960, Dole was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years later was elected to the Senate. During his time in Congress, Dole worked on legislation that included the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and improving Social Security.
Dole became chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1971 and, in 1976, was asked by President Gerald Ford to run as his Vice President in the upcoming election. In the Senate, Dole continued to work as a champion for the middle class, and helped enact major tax cuts in his role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Dole became the Senate Majority Leader in 1984 and worked alongside other Republican leaders such as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Dole was the longest-serving Republican in the history of the U.S. Senate when he retired in 1996 to run as the Republican presidential nominee, and in 1997 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Dole continued working after leaving public office, and held roles including chairman of the National World War II Memorial and chairman of the International Commission on Missing Persons.
Elizabeth Dole, a former North Carolina senator and a former cabinet member in both the Nixon and Bush Administrations, was born on July 29, 1936, with a birthday just one week after her husband’s.
Editor’s note: this story has been updated to reflect the sponsor of this effort.