Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley made it official Thursday: 95-year-old Bob Dole, the former senator, presidential contender and World War II veteran, is now a colonel.
In a private ceremony at one of Dole's favorite spots, the World War II Memorial, where he sometimes shows up unannounced to greet other veterans, Milley conferred the honorary rank of colonel on the former Army 10th Mountain Division captain.
"Dole's legacy of valor in combat and lifelong career of selfless service to the nation represent the highest ideals and values of the Army as well as the Greatest Generation," Milley said at the ceremony, according to an Army release.
Army Secretary Mark Esper, who recommended Dole's promotion, said in a statement that there were "few Americans who have compiled such a record of leadership and achievement in both war and peace as has Sen. Bob Dole."
The idea for Dole's promotion came from Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, who asked Esper to review Dole's record. In March, Congress approved a special bill authorizing Dole's promotion, and President Donald Trump signed it in April.
While serving with 10th Mountain in Italy, Dole was severely wounded by German machine gun fire in April 1945 during an offensive in the Apennine Mountains south of Bologna.
As Dole described it in his 1988 autobiography, "I could see my platoon's radioman go down" and "after pulling his lifeless form into the foxhole, I scrambled back out again. As I did, I felt a sharp sting in my upper right back."
It took Dole nearly three years to recover, and he never regained full use of his right arm. He was medically discharged from the Army in 1947. His awards included two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart, the Army said.
Dole represented Kansas in Congress from 1960 to 1996. He served in the House beginning in 1960 and was elected to the Senate in 1968. He was the Republican leader in the Senate from 1985 to 1996.
In his political career, Dole became known for his sharp wit, but on occasion he got it back. Reporters who traveled with him on the last legs of his unsuccessful presidential campaign against Bill Clinton in 1996 could recall his initial surprise when he went to vote in his hometown of Russell, Kansas.
He was Sen. Dole everywhere else but in Russell, it was "Bob."
An old friend was at a folding table checking registrations. She officiously snapped at Dole: "Name please." It took Dole a few seconds to figure out he was being joshed.
"Oh c'mon, Martha," he said. They both burst out laughing.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.