Elizabeth Dole presented American Legion's highest honor

Elizabeth Dole presented American Legion's highest honor

After a long career in public service, Elizabeth Dole turned her sights toward helping a group she knows intimately: caregivers of wounded military personnel and veterans. Her work in bringing attention to those caregivers earned Dole The American Legion’s highest honor.

On Aug. 28 on the stage of the 100th American Legion National Convention in Minneapolis, Dole was presented with The American Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal. The award is presented to those who have offered "outstanding service to the nation and to the ideals of The American Legion."

Calling the award “an enormous honor," Dole took time to talk about why she is focused on the nation’s caregivers.

“Experts estimate that veteran caregivers provide nearly $14 billion a year as an unpaid workforce,” she said. “On top of everything else, caregivers usually assume responsibility for the household: paying the bills, handling legal and financial challenges, and raising children.

“Caring for a wounded veteran is complicated and all-consuming. And it takes an enormous toll. Caregivers experience elevated rates of isolation, depression, physical ailments, family strain, and financial and legal trouble.”

Dole said that the veteran caregiver crisis “is a societal issue that requires a national response. That’s why the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has built a national coalition of more than 300 organizations, including The American Legion and (American Legion) Auxiliary, to introduce new services and programs that empower, strengthen and honor our veteran caregivers.”

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s mission is to support and honor the millions of the nation’s military caregivers. The foundation “adopts a comprehensive approach in its advocacy, working with leaders in the public, private, nonprofit and faith communities to recognize military caregivers’ service and promote their well-being.”

Dole’s husband – Legionnaire, World War II veteran, former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole – suffered severe injuries during World War II that left him with limited mobility in his right arm.

“She not only understands the issues facing the caregivers of our heroes. She has lived it,” American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan said of Elizabeth Dole. “She established the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in order to bring attention and assistance to the group of often-forgotten family members who work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for their heroic loved ones.”

Dole, the first female U.S. Department of Transportation secretary and later the Department of Labor secretary, also served as president of the American Red Cross in 1991, and as two-term U.S. senator from North Carolina before running for president in 2000.

Sen. Bob Dole was presented the Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1997. Other previous recipients of the award include President George W. Bush, Chuck Hagel, Gen. Colin Powell and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.