Bob Dole, the former U.S. Senator from Kansas, can sign about 200 books an hour and make a favorable impression on everyone he meets while he’s doing it.
A room full of Marines lined up Saturday at the Quantico Marine Corps base exchange to wait for Dole’s signature on their copy of “One Soldier’s Story,” Dole’s newly published memoir of being wounded at the end of World War II and his three-year recovery from the spinal cord injury.
Daniel Huggins noticed that Dole tried to spend a little time with everyone who came through the line.
“He can make it seem like his time is not valuable. He knows how to spend it with everybody,” the 20-year-old lance corporal said.
“He seems like a good, sincere man,” Huggins said.
Like many of the others who showed up for the book signing, Huggins thought of Dole as an American hero.
“I like everything he stands for,” Huggins said. “I was real excited when I heard he was coming, to get a chance to see the man in person.”
Dole was injured during a firefight against a fortified German position in d’Aiano, a small village in Italy, on April 14, 1945, while leading a platoon of the 10th Mountain Division.
He was trying to pull his radio man to safety when an exploding shell, mortar round or machine gun fire slammed into his upper back.
“Whatever it was. I’ll never know,” Dole said in an Associated Press interview.
The injury cost Dole the use of his right arm, part of his right shoulder, one kidney and most of the sensation in his left arm.
Though the book is about his war experience, Dole said soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen of any generation face the same danger.
“You take the same risks. You’re all afraid. You don’t want to get shot,” the 81-year-old Dole said of all warriors.
Today’s fighters have proven their worth, Dole said in an interview before the book signing.
“A lot of people thought the MTV generation couldn’t hack it, but they’ve already proved they can in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.
Camp Pendelton, Calif.; Ft. Hood, Texas; and Fort Bragg, N.C., are among the stops on Dole’s 14-city, 10-day tour around the country.
“We’ve got a lot of books to sign,” he said.
Dole said he likes going to military bases and having the chance to talk to military men and women.
“I want to thank them for their service when they come through,” Dole said.
Lt. Daniel Grazier, who describes himself as an independent conservative, has been a Bob Dole fan since he was a political neophyte.
“He was running for president when I was a senior in high school,” Grazier said as he waited in line.
“He was the first person I ever voted for,” the 27-year-old said.
About two years ago, Dole’s sister reminded him that she had boxes his letters stored in her basement.
Dole decided the letters, to and from home during the war and his recovery, would help make a good memoir.
The letters are interspersed through the plainspoken book.
He said the idea worked, if you judge by the reviews.
“We’ve had about 400 great reviews and one stinker from the Washington Post,” he said.
As they approached the front of the line, people handed their cameras to Dole’s aides and the aides snapped pictures of them with the senator.
Mike Manning, “a big fan of Bob Dole,” admired him for his 35-year U.S. Senate career and his 1996 run for the presidency.
“He was wounded in combat and got on with his life,” the 37-year-old major said.
Dole said his left hand gets tired “after a while,” but he is an experienced campaigner and knows it’s an effective way to sell books.
“Word of mouth is as good as TV or radio,”he said.