- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 10, 2005

Former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole says a sense of humor is key to surviving Beltway politics, but the World War II hero’s new autobiography, “One Soldier’s Story,” details how family is essential to outliving the horrors of war.

The Kansas native says he remembers being wounded on hill 913 in northern Italy on April 14, 1945, as if it happened yesterday.

“I think everyone was scared. People would tell me, ‘Oh, it didn’t bother me. I wasn’t afraid of anything.’ I doubt it,” said Mr. Dole.

In the book, he recounts the moment he was hit by German fire ripping apart his shoulder, breaking his collarbone and right arm, smashing his vertebrae and damaging his spinal cord.

“I felt a sting as something hot, something terribly powerful crash into my upper back behind my right shoulder. My body responded before my brain had time to process what was happening. As the mortar round, exploding shell, machine gun blast — whatever it was, I’ll never know — ripped in my body, I recoiled, lifted off the ground a bit, twisted in the air and fell face down in the dirt,” according to the book.

Mr. Dole, 81, described to host Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the events that caused his partial paralysis, comparing them to “a near-death experience.”

“Your life kind of just floats in front of you. I thought about my little dog. I thought about my parents. I thought about my brother, my sisters, Russell, Kansas. All those things just flash by you,” he said.

Mr. Dole called his mother a “star” for moving from Russell to Topeka to be at his bedside every day he was in a body cast.

“I couldn’t use my arms, and she was holding my cigarettes,” said Mr. Dole, noting that his mother despised the habit.

“You never know how much your parents really do for you until you get a little older and appreciate them more,” he said.

On politics, Mr. Dole advised a renewed sense of humor for members of Congress who are engaged in “pretty bitter” battles on Capitol Hill.

“You don’t make personal attacks on people, but you’ve got to have a little fun in life,” said Mr. Dole, who served 27 years in the Senate, ending in 1996, the year he was the Republican nominee for president. He served four terms in the House before being elected to the Senate in 1968.

He said he hopes readers who also suffer from disabilities will be inspired by his life and realize they can make a difference.

“Life is not a spectator sport,” he said. “Every one of us has setbacks, every one of us has little bumps in the road, and it’s how we deal with those little bumps in the road that determines our future.”

“But what the book is about, it’s about me, but it’s also about my generation,” Mr. Dole said. “It’s about all those men and women in uniform and those who weren’t in uniform in World War II. For once, we were united. And it paid off. And we’ve become the greatest country in the world. And we’re proud to say, ‘God bless America.’”

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