World War II veteran remembers late Sen. Bob Dole

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MASCOUTAH, Ill. — After Bob Dole’s death Sunday at age 98, the nation is remembering his legacy — from his 36-year tenure in Congress to his military service during World War II.

Joe Cunningham, a 96-year-old World War II Navy veteran who lives in Mascoutah, said the late senator was a “wonderful person” whom he had the pleasure of meeting on an honor flight in Washington D.C.

“I got to meet Senator Dole, which was the highlight of my life,” said Cunningham. “I immediately fell in love with the guy because he was a wonderful person, just kind. Stood there on his bad legs and stood and stood, and I thought the poor guy was going to fall over but didn’t. He encouraged us to take more pictures. And he was still standing there as we took off on the bus all the way back to the airport.”

Dole’s injuries from his service left his right arm paralyzed, but the former Republican presidential candidate and longtime Senator from Kansas would use his left arm to reach across the aisle — and that struck this fellow veteran.

“I would salute Bob Dole,” said Cunningham “I didn’t. But if I had to do it over, I would have saluted him because I really respected him.”

Those like Dole and Cunningham know of the horrors of war. Their stories, sacrifices, and service to their country are exemplary. Cunningham served on the U.S.S. Bosque. 

Dole also received two Purple Hearts for his valor in World War II. Throughout his political career, Dole shaped tax and foreign policy and helped lead the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On Thursday, Congressional leaders will honor Dole as his body lies in state at the U.S. Capitol.

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