- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

The sunlit third-floor physical therapy room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is not for the faint of heart.

A young woman sits on a stationary bike, her left leg severed at the knee, a crosshatch of stitches closing the wound. A thin young man with a spider web of facial scars sits quietly working with a therapist, his left arm a stump. Other amputees try out their artificial legs, balancing precariously on crutches.

Here, the wounds of war are fresh — even for 81-year-old former Sen. Bob Dole, a World War II veteran who cheated death 60 years ago, but remains permanently disabled. Mr. Dole — who represented Kansas in Congress for 35 years — has been coming to Walter Reed for physical therapy three times a week since a fall in January left him with a badly injured left shoulder and paralyzed left arm.

That fall came only one month after Mr. Dole got a hip replacement. One doctor said he would never recover.

“He was in a lot of pain,” says Mr. Dole’s physician, Dr. Charles Peck. “He kept saying this is an awful lot like 1945.”

Mr. Dole has returned to Walter Reed just weeks before publication of his new book, “One Soldier’s Story,” a memoir of his war experience, especially his long recovery and rehabilitation from the wounds he suffered in northern Italy in April 1945.

He wrote the book, he says, to give hope to others. Now, he grimaces as the therapist lifts his left arm in slow motion.

“There was a period I couldn’t move it at all,” Mr. Dole says of the recent injury, “but they’re getting it back.”

Mr. Dole is upbeat about his latest recovery and looking forward to a book tour.

He was awarded two Purple Hearts for his war injuries, as well as the Bronze Star for bravery for crawling out of his foxhole in an attempt to rescue his platoon’s radio man. Wounded by German machine-gun fire, Lt. Dole lay paralyzed for nine hours on an Italian battlefield before being evacuated.

Three years and nine operations later, he would walk again, but never regain use of his right arm. Citizens from his hometown of Russell, Kan., contributed money to help pay for his medical bills.

He writes of his recovery in the new book: “I still wasn’t feeling anything in my right arm, but I knew that portion of my body had been badly mangled, so I centered my efforts on my left side. Slowly, but surely, I could move my toes, and my legs just a little. ‘Move!’ I’d silently scream at my left hand and arm, but it defied my orders. It lay motionless on my chest, atop the plaster cast.”

Now it’s his left deltoid muscle that needs work, especially if he’s going to be autographing all those books.

“Awesome,” says his therapist, Maj. Lynn Lowe, who gives Mr. Dole high marks as a patient. “He’s on time. And he works hard. He does what we ask him to do.”

But Mr. Dole has been through this before.

“Almost the same thing, only it lasted longer. Here I am, 60 years later. Somebody’s feeding me, taking me to the bathroom.”

However, he adds, “You get older; it gets harder. And yet, look at all these people.”

Mr. Dole is greeted as the celebrity by the service members recovering at Walter Reed and takes time to say hello.

“Appreciate your service,” he tells one uniformed man. “Never give up,” he tells another.

“They’re all working hard,” Mr. Dole says.

He is asked his definition of bravery.

“I never really focused on that. When it’s in front of you, you decide what to do. Do the right thing. You know after the war I had that feeling, ‘Why me?’ but as my doctor in Chicago told me: You have to grow up, get on with your life.”

Finished with therapy for the morning, he slowly puts on his navy blue blazer and heads for the elevator, on his way back to his office downtown. Mr. Dole is special counsel for the law firm Alston & Bird, where he recently recruited former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, to join him.

As for the war in Iraq, Mr. Dole supports it.

“I think we did the right thing. … I think President Bush has a vision of democracy that’s going to materialize. But you don’t like to go up there and see these guys. But I don’t know how you avoid it. Most of these young guys are ready to go back. And you know, their mothers are there. Just like in World War II.”

Asked how he would like his epitaph to read, Mr. Dole doesn’t miss a beat: “Honor. Duty. Country.”

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