WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita threw a party on Tuesday.
Bob Dole was invited. The former senator and presidential candidate had his trademark sense of humor on display from the start of the visit.
“I didn’t realize there were so many good looking people here,” said former Senator Bob Dole. “I’d have been out earlier.”
Dole immediately and frequently dropped jokes as VA staff and volunteers lined the walls to shake hands and get a selfie.
“I got the picture, yes,” said Air Force Veteran Daron Clinesmith. “I turned around and shook his hand, and he’s got a keen sense of humor. I’m very proud.”
Other veterans made their way forward to see Bob Dole. World War II veteran Ruth Carpenter finally got to meet someone she considers a hero.
Ruth talked about her service as a nurse aid during World War II.
“We were enlisted just to help the nurses. It was meeting a lot of new people and just serving the country,” said Carpenter.
After talking to Bob Dole, Carpenter said she was thrilled to be part of what turned out to be a reunion of a lot of veterans.
“It just means having somebody to look up to and know that he has suffered a lot,” said Carpenter. “But he has served his country well.”
As Bob Dole continued to shake hands, he continued telling jokes and smiling at other veterans who have served.
One veteran reached out to shake Dole’s hand and dropped the photograph of a young Bob Dole he had in his hands.
“Better grab that,” said Dole. “That could have been a hundred dollar bill.”
The former senator spend a few seconds with everyone he could as the line to meet Dole wrapped throughout much of the medical center.
“So your grandparents are from Russell? I know the place. I’ve heard of it,” said Bob Dole of his childhood hometown. “I think your grandfather was a farmer? I think he traded with my father. Small world.”
The Director of the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center has never before met the man who has his name on the building.
“Incredible. He’s incredible. He is what you would want all politicians to be,” said Rick Ament, Medical Center Director at the Wichita VA. “Gentile and intellectual, kind, warm. He connected with all the veterans. The staff loved him, the veterans loved him.”
Ament dedicated a new coffee shop in honor of Bob Dole’s visit. The new coffee shop is called 10th Mountain Way. That name is in honor of Dole’s 10th Mountain Division unit in World War II.
As Dole left, he continued to shake hands and continued to smile and pause for more pictures.
“I guess it’s time to go,” said Bob Dole. “This has been nice. This is a good place, and I want to thank everyone for their service.”