One Soldier's Story
By Bob Dole
HarperCollins, 304 paqges, $25.95
Bob Dole's memoir "One Soldier's Story" should have been written years ago. It could have helped him in his quest for the vice presidency in the 1976 presidential election and for the presidency in 1996, when he headed up the Republican ticket.
Dole served in the U.S. Senate for 27 years and was the Republican leader for 12 of those years. Always highly respected, he lacked charisma and was never an inspiring speaker. These political shortcomings could have been overcome if his book had been published during the period when he aspired to higher office.
"One Soldier's Story" is not an autobiography and does not in any way follow the Dole political career. It is in fact the story of his experiences in World War II and how he courageously overcame the life-threatening injuries he sustained in Italy just two weeks before the war ended. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has suffered a debilitating war injury. I can't recall Dole relating his very serious war injuries in his vice presidential and presidential campaigns in an effort to win votes. Now, with the publication of this book, the American public will become aware of how seriously wounded he was after he was hit by enemy fire in his right shoulder and back.
Three years after that incident he lost a kidney, lost the use of his right arm and most of the feeling in his left arm. He went through periods when he lost consciousness and was not expected to live. Dole describes with candor and simplicity his valiant struggle to overcome the odds that ultimately led him to recovery and the lasting physical problems he has had to face since his injuries.
An unusual and appealing feature of Dole's book is the extensive quotes from letters he wrote to his parents while he was still in the army and those who wrote to him. Fortunately his mother saved these through the years, as did many others, mine included.
The Dole memoir does not contain any profound thoughts of the senator's. Rather, it is an inspiring story of a soldier who overcame great odds and was ultimately able to return to civilian life and meaningful political achievement.
This book, if written when Dole was still politically active, could have elicited a great deal of sympathy for him that likely would have generated voter support. To his credit, he refrained from using his wartime experience to win votes. Even those who never agreed with his politics will have to admire his grit and courage in overcoming his severe war wounds and returning to an active lifestyle.
For all the wounded soldiers returning from the Iraq war, "One Soldier's Story" could be source of inspiration as they try to resume civilian lives.
Murray B. Light is the former editor of the Buffalo News.