Message from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin II on Passing of Senator Dole

U.S. Department of Defense

The men and women of the Department of Defense join me in sadness at the news of the passing of Senator Bob Dole, an American hero, a titan of the Senate, and one of the greatest members of the Greatest Generation.

The future Senator enlisted in the U.S. Army as a college student and was appointed a Second Lieutenant in 1944. As a young World War II platoon leader during a spring offensive in Italy, he sustained grievous injuries and almost died while trying to pull his radioman to safety. He never knew what exactly tore into him in April 1945—a mortar, a shell, shrapnel, or a machine gun. Confined to a full-body cast, it was unclear if he would ever recover. But he battled his way back and never forgot those who helped him — including those in his hometown of Russell, Kansas who chipped in to help pay his way to Chicago for an operation.

The young veteran devoted the rest of his life to his country. He served as a county prosecutor, a Kansas state legislator, a U.S. Representative, a Senator, and a presidential candidate. He was a man of uncommon strength, keen wit, and deep feeling.

In the Senate, he helped rescue Social Security and pushed for a strong national defense. Senator Dole dedicated his first major floor speech to his experiences living with disabilities. His tireless advocacy ultimately led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, a landmark civil-rights law that requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

Senator Dole also led the national fundraising effort for the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, raising more than 600,000 individual donations. At the dedication in 2004, he called the memorial “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.”

Bob Dole represented those ideals each and every day of life. He made life better for generations of Americans – past and present. On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, I send my deepest condolences to Elizabeth, his daughter Robin, and the Dole family.

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