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Bob Dole hailed as war hero and 'Kansas' favorite son' at Washington funeral service

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WASHINGTON – Bob Dole is heading home to Kansas one last time.

The body of the former GOP Senate leader is returning to the state that launched his political career after two days of somber but warm ceremonies in the nation's capital honoring the iconic Republican.

"Kansas' favorite son," recalled former Sen. Pat Roberts during a funeral service Friday at the Washington National Cathedral, where a bipartisan assemblage of politicians, led by President Joe Biden, honored Dole's lasting legacy as a bridge-builder in Congress.

The services included two days of tributes reserved for Washington's most consequential and revered dignitaries. Dole lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda Thursday as Biden, who served in the Senate with Dole, and congressional leaders heaped praise on him.

“America has lost one of our greatest patriots.” Biden said, while hailing him as “a hero of democracy.”

Who was at Bob Dole's funeral?: Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Tom Hanks attended Bob Dole's funeral. Who else was there?

Friday's tributes ended at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall where a throng of mourners heard actor Tom Hanks, NBC Today host Savannah Guthrie and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, laud Dole, a decorated World War II veteran himself, as a national hero who always seemed in command.

"There are many great lessons to take away from Bob Dole's life," Hanks said. "Go to the other guy's office so you can decide when the meeting is over, get up and walk out. Speak straight, even when it gets you in trouble because it will. But at least everyone will know how you stand and what you stand for. And always plan not just to win, but to win big. Yes, you may try and fail. But you will not fail to try."

Dole's casket is set to arrive in Kansas on Friday evening in preparation for a public memorial service Saturday in the gymnasium at Russell High School, Dole's alma mater. His casket will then go to the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka where he will lie in repose beginning at 5 p.m.

His body will then return to Washington, and Dole will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, according to a spokesman with Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran's office.

President Joe Biden reaches out to Elizabeth Dole as she arrives for the funeral service of her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. on Dec. 10, 2021.
President Joe Biden reaches out to Elizabeth Dole as she arrives for the funeral service of her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. on Dec. 10, 2021.

Gen. Mark Milley remembers Dole as ‘a man of deep character’

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, honored Dole as “a man of deep character and tremendous accomplishment” in remarks at the World War II Memorial Friday afternoon.

“Today is a solemn day for our nation as we collectively mourn, but more importantly, we celebrate the life of Senator Bob Dole, an incredible example of a lifetime of selfless service to our nation,” Milley said.

Milley said Dole’s “commitment to this democracy was unwavering” and described the late-senator’s time in the military. Dole, a decorated World War II veteran, was seriously injured in Italy's Apennine Mountains located in 1945.

“He had a life of service defending this democracy, and we honor him today for his entire life,” Milley said.

Dole’s service to the United States went beyond his military career, Milley said, noting the Kansas Republican went on to serve the country "many, many times over" in different arenas.

“He served the army. He served the state of Kansas. He served his political party but above all, he served his country and he served his fellow American,” Milley said. “Bob Dole always, always put his country first."

– Rebecca Morin

Hanks: Dole ‘willed’ World War II Memorial into place as monument to peace

In paying tribute to Dole, Actor Tom Hanks said there was perhaps no more fitting location to remember him than the World War II Memorial since the Kansas senator and wounded World War II veteran “willed this memorial into place.”

“He pushed the idea. He corralled the votes. He made the phone calls. He enlisted allies, all of us in the cause. And he raised the money,” Hanks said of Dole who led the national fundraising effort. “He did all but mix the concrete himself, which he may have done had he had the use of that right arm.”

Hanks, who played the iconic role of Capt. John Miller in ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ noted Dole’s service in World War II where he was wounded and lost the use of his right arm during an attack against Nazi German forces in Italy.

“This memorial stands in this rightful sight because Bob Dole remembered. He remembered the nearly half a million souls who, unlike him, never came home from the Second World War. He remembered the years of service the surviving Americans had invested,” said Hanks, addressing a crowd that included World War II veterans.

“Yet this memorial was not built only for the generation it honors anymore than it was erected to crow of their victory,” the actor continued. “Bob Dole called this a memorial to peace, so that all generations would remember that peace is achieved in shared labor, by shared sacrifice, by volunteering for the shared duty, if peace is to be won, and if we Americans are to continue our pursuit of a more perfect nation in an imperfect world.”

– Ledyard King

Dole’s life a “flesh and blood” memorial to American values, says NBC’s Savannah Guthrie

NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie opened Dole’s second service of the day, held at the World War II memorial, describing his life as a memorial to American values made of “flesh and blood.”

Guthrie highlighted Dole's role in advocating for the memorial's creation and talked about his many visits to the monument, even in his final years.

“He came here looking for you: soldier, service member, caregiver, patriot,” Guthrie said. “He came to grasp your hand and lock eyes to convey what could never be sufficiently captured with words alone.”

Despite only knowing the Dole family for a few years, Guthrie reminisced about her memories with them, including a FaceTime call between her children and the Doles’ dogs.

“What a glorious surprise, so marvelous and unexpected, this treasure of a relationship, and inside it, a valuable lesson,” she said. “Senator Bob showed me that even well into your 90s, it is never too late to make a new friend.”

She added that Dole stood for dignity, integrity, friendship and his country.

Guthrie addressed Elizabeth Dole directly and honored their long marriage.

“Dearest Elizabeth, I know how deeply you grieve your beloved, how sweet was the company you kept for nearly 50 years, how you will miss the humor and charm of your dearest companion,” she said. “I also know of your deep faith and of his, and that connection between you is eternal and unbroken. It is how you will hold hands with him until you meet again.”

Ella Lee

Bob Dole' casket arrives at World War II Memorial

The casket of Bob Dole arrived at the National Mall where the former Kansas Republican senator, who died Sunday at age 98, will be honored at the World War II Memorial he helped establish. As the flag-draped coffin was unloaded, onlookers snapped photos while mourners sat quietly.

Dole, a World War II veteran wounded from Nazi gunfire in Italy in 1945, was known for his enduring work recognizing his fellow soldiers. Admirers spoke of how he would make impromptu visits to the memorial to greet veterans who came from across the nation on “Honor Flights.

Dedicated in 2004, the memorial honors the service of 16 million members of the U.S. armed forces, the support of countless millions on the home front, and the ultimate sacrifice of 405,399 Americans.

Twenty-four bronze bas-relief panels flank the ceremonial entrance. Granite columns representing each U.S. state and territory at the time of World War II ring a pool that shoots water into the air. Quotes, references to theaters, campaigns, and battles, and two massive victory pavilions marking (the European and Pacific theaters) chronicle the efforts Americans undertook to win the war. A wall of 4,048 gold stars reminds all of the supreme sacrifice made by over 400,000 Americans.

– Ledyard King

Dole’s casket heads to World War II for public memorial

Bob Dole’s flag-draped casket was led out of the National Cathedral following his funeral service and placed back in the hearse where it will head to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall for a public commemoration.

The memorial service for the former veteran, who was wounded in 1945 in Italy, is slated to start around 1:15 EST.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will speak, along with friends of the Dole family, actor Tom Hanks and Savannah Guthrie of NBC News. Dole's widow, Elizabeth, will lay a wreath at the memorial.

The World War II Memorial is part of Dole's legacy, as he was national chairman in its fundraising effort.

– Ledyard King

Senate Chaplain described Dole, wife as ‘spiritual royalty’

Rev. Dr. Barry C. Black, the 62nd Senate Chaplain, said he grew to love Dole, despite not serving as chaplain while the Kansas senator held office.

He described a call with Dole and his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, as “a conference call with spiritual royalty.”

“At the end (of the call), I had a sense that Bob knew he was cared for by a great Shepherd,” Black said.

Black evoked one of the readings, Psalm 23, which reads “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

The Senate chaplain of 19 years joked that Dole enjoyed brevity and described him as a “covert spiritual agent.”

“He did not wear his religion on his sleeves,” Black said. “He resonated with the sentiment of Francis of Assisi: ‘Preach the Gospel everywhere you go. When necessary, use words.’”

– Ella Lee

‘The most generous person’: Robin Dole, daughter of late senator, honors father at funeral service

Robin Dole, the only daughter of the former GOP leader, hailed her father as an animal lover and “the most generous person” who “cared more about other than he did himself.”

“He was a giver, not a taker,” Dole, 67, said of her father. “He cared more about others than he did about himself.”

Dole recalled that her father had a “personal goal to help at least one person every day of his life.” She noted the Kansas Republican was unsure whether he was able to meet his goal.

“I said ‘Dad, you've got to be kidding. Some days you help one person and other days you help 40,000 people. I think you've met and exceeded your goal,’” Dole recalled.

“‘Well, you may be right,’ he said,” she continued.

Dole's daughter: He was a lover of animals

Robin Dole said her father loved animals, noting how much he loved his dogs, Blazer and Leader. She said Blazer at times would lay at his feet “whenever he suspected dad needed special nursing care.”

“It really helped him because he loved them so much,” she said.

In her closing remarks, Dole quoted a farewell letter her father wrote.

“As I make the final walk on my life's journey, I do so without fear because I know that I will again, not be walking alone,” Dole said, reading her father’s words. “I know that God will be walking with me.”

Dole added that she would miss her father so much, and will continue to talk to him every night.

“I love you dad,” she said. “You will never walk alone.”

– Rebecca Morin

Tom Daschle: Bob Dole transcended partisanship

Former Sen. Tom Daschle, who in the mid-1990s served as the Democratic majority leader while Dole was leading the Senate Republicans, praised the Kansan for possessing a love of country that transcended partisan politics.

“He stood up for minorities early in his career and he broke party ranks and voted for the landmark Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. He stood up for the elderly when he worked with (New York Democratic Sen.) Pat Moynihan literally to save Social Security,” Daschle told the mourners. “He stood up for the young when he worked with my fellow South Dakotan (Democratic senator) George McGovern on nutrition assistance. And he stood up for the disabled when he worked with Ted Kennedy and Tom Harkin on the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Dole said the agricultural community was particularly pleased when senators chose two Midwesterners to lead their respective parties in the chamber.

“He said every farmer in America that very moment ordered a new tractor,” he said, drawing a chuckle from the congregation.

– Ledyard King

Fellow Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts calls Dole 'Kansas' favorite son'

Former Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., described Dole as “Kansas’ favorite son,” along with former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and told stories of Dole’s upbringing in the Sunflower State.

The former Kansas senator evoked a speech Dole gave to the 1986 graduating class of his hometown high school, Russell High School.

“There are two kinds of education in this world,” Dole said. “There's one where you give yourself and another you get from others. You could get an education on the farm, or in a factory or in a science lab, at a church pew. Most of all, if you're from Russell, you can get an education just by looking at life around you.”

Roberts said when he learned the news of Dole’s death on Sunday, Kansans from all walks of life “paused,” including himself.

“Bob Dole was a person who meant something to everyone in the coffee shop, the campaign trail, the halls of Congress,” he said. “Whether we were in Topeka, Abilene, Wichita or Dodge City, I saw Bob Dole connect with Kansans, always on a personal level. He would share with them this vision, this promise, and he would help them achieve it.”

– Ella Lee

'And there was Bob'

Roberts also spoke on Dole’s dedication to American veterans, particularly in his persistence to the creation of the World War II memorial.

“Every weekend, when the Honor Flights would roll up to the World War II memorial, Kansas veterans, escorted by Kansas high school students, would visit their memorial to reflect on their fight to preserve a free world,” he said. “And there was Bob, shaking every hand, posing for every picture, listening to all the stories and the thanks of a still grateful nation.”

– Ella Lee

Biden: Dole was ‘a man of principle, pragmatism and enormous integrity’

President Joe Biden honored Bob Dole Friday morning, calling the late senator a “genuine hero” as he described his life as a war hero and a politician who “always did his duty” and “lived by a code of honor.”

“I found Bob to be a man of principle, pragmatism and enormous integrity,” Biden said of the former GOP leader. "He wanted government to work, to work for folks like him, who came up the hard way.”

Biden, who served with Dole in the Senate, noted that the Kansas Republican at times made decisions that were in opposition of those within his own party, such as creating a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Bob Dole did that,” Biden said, adding that the late Senator told colleagues that “No first class Democracy can treat people like second class citizens.”

During his closing remarks, Biden said Dole “will be with us always.”

“Bob will be with us always, cracking a joke, moving a bill, finding common ground,” Biden said.

– Rebecca Morin

President Joe Biden places his hand on Sen. Bob Dole’s casket at the former senator's funeral service at Washington National Cathedral.
President Joe Biden places his hand on Sen. Bob Dole’s casket at the former senator's funeral service at Washington National Cathedral.

Reverend: Bob Dole gone but 'not lost'

Rev. Randolph Hollerith welcomed the mourners to the funeral, noting that it was only five weeks ago that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had his own memorial service in the very same church.

“We have indeed seen too much loss in recent days,” said Hollerith, dean of the Washington National Cathedral since 2016.

“Bob Dole was one of the greatest of the greatest generation, a patriot who always placed country above partisanship and politics. While we mourn his loss, we gather this morning to give thanks for him and to celebrate his extraordinary life,” the reverend said.

“Though Sen. Dole has gone from us he is not lost,” he said. “For now, it is enough to say on behalf of a grateful nation, well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.”

Ledyard King

Bill Clinton arrives at Bob Dole funeral service

Former President Bill Clinton is in attendance at Bob Dole's funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral.

Clinton was seated in the first row, alongside President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.

Clinton defeated Dole in the 1996 presidential election.

Former Vice Presidents Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney and Mike Pence were also in attendance. The three former vice presidents were seated together.

– Rebecca Morin

Ex-VPs Mike Pence, Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney attend Dole funeral service

President Bill Clinton seated in a pew just in front of former Vice Presidents Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney and Mike Pence at the funeral service of former Sen. Bob Dole at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C.
President Bill Clinton seated in a pew just in front of former Vice Presidents Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney and Mike Pence at the funeral service of former Sen. Bob Dole at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C.

Former Vice President Mike Pence arrived at the Washington National Cathedral around 10:15 a.m. EST Friday to attend Dole’s funeral service.

Pence wasn't the only former vice president there. Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney were also in attendance.

A number of lawmakers will be at the funeral service for the former senator. Some members of Congress, such as Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, were already in attendance at the Cathedral. Other lawmakers, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will be arriving with the motorcade that left the Capitol.

President Joe Biden will also be in attendance and will deliver remarks honoring Dole.

– Rebecca Morin

Casket carrying Dole leaves Capitol for funeral service

The flag-draped casket carrying former Sen. Bob Dole has been loaded on a hearse and has left the Capitol for the six-mile trip to the Washington National Cathedral where a funeral service for the former GOP leader is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. EST.

The casket of the World War II veteran, who lay in state Thursday, was carried down the steps from the Capitol Rotunda by eight members of the military as congressional leaders looked on.

Dole’s widow, Elizabeth, and daughter, Robin, were part of the police escort taking the former presidential candidate to the funeral service.

A private service is scheduled at the cathedral where President Joe Biden and former Sens. Pat Roberts and Tom Daschle, and Dole's daughter Robin Dole will give tribute. Lee Greenwood will perform.

– Ledyard King

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bob Dole funeral: Biden, Robin Dole pay tribute to late Kansas senator