Bob Dole hailed as war hero and ‘Kansas’ favorite son’ at Washington funeral service


WASHINGTON – Bob Dole is heading home to Kansas one last time.

The body of the former GOP Senate leader is returning to the state that launched his political career after two days of somber but warm ceremonies in the nation’s capital honoring the iconic Republican.

“Kansas’ favorite son,” recalled former Sen. Pat Roberts during a funeral service Friday at the Washington National Cathedral, where a bipartisan assemblage of politicians, led by President Joe Biden, honored Dole’s lasting legacy as a bridge-builder in Congress.

The services included two days of tributes reserved for Washington’s most consequential and revered dignitaries. Dole lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda Thursday as Biden, who served in the Senate with Dole, and congressional leaders heaped praise on him.

“America has lost one of our greatest patriots.” Biden said, while hailing him as “a hero of democracy.”

Who was at Bob Dole’s funeral?: Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Tom Hanks attended Bob Dole’s funeral. Who else was there?

Friday’s tributes ended at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall where a throng of mourners heard actor Tom Hanks, NBC Today host Savannah Guthrie and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, laud Dole, a decorated World War II veteran himself, as a national hero who always seemed in command.

“There are many great lessons to take away from Bob Dole’s life,” Hanks said. “Go to the other guy’s office so you can decide when the meeting is over, get up and walk out. Speak straight, even when it gets you in trouble because it will. But at least everyone will know how you stand and what you stand for. And always plan not just to win, but to win big. Yes, you may try and fail. But you will not fail to try.”

Dole’s casket is set to arrive in Kansas on Friday evening in preparation for a public memorial service Saturday in the gymnasium at Russell High School, Dole’s alma mater. His casket will then go to the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka where he will lie in repose beginning at 5 p.m.

His body will then return to Washington, and Dole will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, according to a spokesman with Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran’s office. 

Gen. Mark Milley remembers Dole as ‘a man of deep character’

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, honored Dole as “a man of deep character and tremendous accomplishment” in remarks at the World War II Memorial Friday afternoon.

“Today is a solemn day for our nation as we collectively mourn, but more importantly, we celebrate the life of Senator Bob Dole, an incredible example of a lifetime of selfless service to our nation,” Milley said.

Milley said Dole’s “commitment to this democracy was unwavering” and described the late-senator’s time in the military. Dole, a decorated World War II veteran, was seriously injured in Italy’s Apennine Mountains located in 1945.

“He had a life of service defending this democracy, and we honor him today for his entire life,” Milley said.

Dole’s service to the United States went beyond his military career, Milley said, noting the Kansas Republican went on to serve the country “many, many times over” in different arenas. 

“He served the army. He served the state of Kansas. He served his political party but above all, he served his country and he served his fellow American,” Milley said. “Bob Dole always, always put his country first.” 

– Rebecca Morin

In paying tribute to Dole, Actor Tom Hanks said there was perhaps no more fitting location to remember him than the World War II Memorial since the Kansas senator and wounded World War II veteran “willed this memorial into place.”

“He pushed the idea. He corralled the votes. He made the phone calls. He enlisted allies, all of us in the cause. And he raised the money,” Hanks said of Dole who led the national fundraising effort. “He did all but mix the concrete himself, which he may have done had he had the use of that right arm.”

Hanks, who played the iconic role of Capt. John Miller in ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ noted Dole’s service in World War II where he was wounded and lost the use of his right arm during an attack against Nazi German forces in Italy.

“This memorial stands in this rightful sight because Bob Dole remembered. He remembered the nearly half a million souls who, unlike him, never came home from the Second World War. He remembered the years of service the surviving Americans had invested,” said Hanks, addressing a crowd that included World War II veterans.

“Yet this memorial was not built only for the generation it honors anymore than it was erected to crow of their victory,” the actor continued. “Bob Dole called this a memorial to peace, so that all generations would remember that peace is achieved in shared labor, by shared sacrifice, by volunteering for the shared duty, if peace is to be won, and if we Americans are to continue our pursuit of a more perfect nation in an imperfect world.”

– Ledyard King

NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie opened Dole’s second service of the day, held at the World War II memorial, describing his life as a memorial to American values made of “flesh and blood.”

Guthrie highlighted Dole’s role in advocating for the memorial’s creation and talked about his many visits to the monument, even in his final years.

“He came here looking for you: soldier, service member, caregiver, patriot,” Guthrie said. “He came to grasp your hand and lock eyes to convey what could never be sufficiently captured with words alone.”

Despite only knowing the Dole family for a few years, Guthrie reminisced about her memories with them, including a FaceTime call between her children and the Doles’ dogs.

“What a glorious surprise, so marvelous and unexpected, this treasure of a relationship, and inside it, a valuable lesson,” she said. “Senator Bob showed me that even well into your 90s, it is never too late to make a new friend.”

She added that Dole stood for dignity, integrity, friendship and his country.

Guthrie addressed Elizabeth Dole directly and honored their long marriage. 

“Dearest Elizabeth, I know how deeply you grieve your beloved, how sweet was the company you kept for nearly 50 years, how you will miss the humor and charm of your dearest companion,” she said. “I also know of your deep faith and of his, and that connection between you is eternal and unbroken. It is how you will hold hands with him until you meet again.”

Ella Lee

The casket of Bob Dole arrived at the National Mall where the former Kansas Republican senator, who died Sunday at age 98, will be honored at the World War II Memorial he helped establish. As the flag-draped coffin was unloaded, onlookers snapped photos while mourners sat quietly.

Dole, a World War II veteran wounded from Nazi gunfire in Italy in 1945, was known for his enduring work recognizing his fellow soldiers. Admirers spoke of how he would make impromptu visits to the memorial to greet veterans who came from across the nation on “Honor Flights.

Dedicated in 2004, the memorial honors the service of 16 million members of the U.S. armed forces, the support of countless millions on the home front, and the ultimate sacrifice of 405,399 Americans.

Twenty-four bronze bas-relief panels flank the ceremonial entrance. Granite columns representing each U.S. state and territory at the time of World War II ring a pool that shoots water into the air. Quotes, references to theaters, campaigns, and battles, and two massive victory pavilions marking (the European and Pacific theaters) chronicle the efforts Americans undertook to win the war. A wall of 4,048 gold stars reminds all of the supreme sacrifice made by over 400,000 Americans.

– Ledyard King

Bob Dole’s flag-draped casket was led out of the National Cathedral following his funeral service and placed back in the hearse where it will head to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall for a public commemoration.

The memorial service for the former veteran, who was wounded in 1945 in Italy, is slated to start around 1:15 EST.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will speak, along with friends of the Dole family, actor Tom Hanks and Savannah Guthrie of NBC News. Dole’s widow, Elizabeth, will lay a wreath at the memorial.

The World War II Memorial is part of Dole’s legacy, as he was national chairman in its fundraising effort.

– Ledyard King

Rev. Dr. Barry C. Black, the 62nd Senate Chaplain, said he grew to love Dole, despite not serving as chaplain while the Kansas senator held office. 

He described a call with Dole and his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, as “a conference call with spiritual royalty.”

“At the end (of the call), I had a sense that Bob knew he was cared for by a great Shepherd,” Black…

Read More: Bob Dole hailed as war hero and ‘Kansas’ favorite son’ at Washington funeral service

You might also like