TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – It was nearly one month ago 80 local veterans were preparing to embark on the return of ‘Honor Flight Tallahassee’.
While the trip was an amazing experience, something was missing.
A friendly, yet famous face, who was on hand almost every year to greet the veterans at the memorial was essential in getting the memorial created.
In a trip of grand spectacle, that at times elicited smiles and at others’ great sorrow, it was the simplest gestures that provided an appropriate thank you.
“He shocked the hand of every veteran who was on our flight, and had his picture taken with every veteran and just talked with them and they just admired him so much,” Honor Flight Tallahassee Chairman Mac Kemp recalls.
A wreath was placed in the very spot where former US Senator and WWII Veteran Bob Dole would greet every veteran as they got off the bus at the WWII Memorial in DC
“He would turn this way and meet a vet, then would turn this way and meet another vet,” Guardian Marian Deeney remembered as she was imitating Dole’s movement.
Dole was on hand to welcome several Honor Flights, every year well into his 90′s. He helped provide the gateway into a memorial he fought so hard to have built.
“You know the WWII Veterans weren’t going to come out here and do this themselves,” Kemp says. “They were too humble. He realized they needed to be recognized. And this is one of the best Memorials in Washington as far as I’m concerned.”
Asked how important it was for Deeney to honor Dole on this trip, she replied, “The most important for me. My father served in WWII. He never got to see the Memorial. So, this was a way for us to pay tribute to the veterans who have passed on.”
Dole wore his sacrifice, visibly scarred from the war.
“The sweetest memories are him holding hands with the other WWII Veterans. Here are these gnarled, swollen hands, holding hands together, and that was a great piece of history, we were able to experience,” Guardian Deborah Brown recalls.
And, the promise of that embrace… “The highlight of the trip,” Brown says. “The Governor was up here one year, and nobody wanted to talk to the Governor, they all wanted to see Bob Dole.”
So, this thank you was necessary. A simple gesture for a man who used himself to make hundreds of our veterans feel as big as he was.
Dole died in December of last year, at the age of 98. After his funeral, his casket was taken to the WWII Memorial for a public tribute.
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