One of the most famous veterans of the “Greatest Generation” has joined the ranks of recently injured members of the military at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Former Sen. Bob Dole was so badly wounded 65 years ago that he almost didn’t make it off the battlefield. Now, he is recovering from surgery alongside troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I’m just sort of one of the group. We show up at 10 o’clock and do our stuff,” Dole said as he pedaled a stationary bike during a morning physical therapy session.
Dole, who turns 87 this month, is at Walter Reed for rehabilitation connected to knee replacement surgery. A bout with pneumonia lengthened his post-op recuperation, so he’s been with the young troops since they arrived from the battlefield.
“I’ve been here long enough to watch when they first came in, and then to see them today. Whether it’s Lee or Chris or Levi, it’s amazing,” Dole said, as he watches Army Spc. Levi Crawford do a step exercise. “He couldn’t stand up on that step yesterday.”
As a veteran-turned-lawmaker, Dole has advocated for the nation’s veterans throughout his career, including serving as co-chair of a 2007 presidential commission that investigated shoddy conditions at Walter Reed, but he has nothing but praise for the medical care he has seen.
He marvels at the stark contrast between treatment today and his own experience in 1945, which left his right arm paralyzed.
“These modern medical miracles, you see them every day here,” he said. “If they’re wounded on one day, they can be in Walter Reed the third day. It took me nine hours to get off a battlefield. It took me weeks to get home.”
Dole sympathizes with Air Force Sgt. Christopher Curtis, 32, who was in dire shape after his CV-22 Osprey crashed in Afghanistan back in April.
“I couldn’t move. I was in a body cast,” Dole said. “That’s all behind me, but it does give you pause. I think about, ‘Jiminy – was I ever in as bad as shape as Chris?'”
Curtis said recovering alongside Dole has inspired him.
“Knowing that I’m going through what (Dole) went through…I’m not in a full body cast or anything like that,” he said. “They’ve basically eliminated that factor and here I am already in rehab (thanks to) surgeries and advanced technologies.”
The servicemembers said that when Dole comes to physical therapy, he always talks to everyone in the room, including family members who are always by their side — just like his mother was there for him 65 years ago.
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Article courtesy cnn.com
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