U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the passing of World War II veteran and South Dakota native Marcella LeBeau and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, December 9.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I want to take a few minutes to honor two members of the Greatest Generation we’ve lost recently – Marcella LeBeau and Bob Dole.
“Marcella LeBeau died on Sunday, November 21.
“She was from my home state of South Dakota and a member of the Two Kettle Band of the Cheyenne River Sioux who served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II, including time on the front lines treating the wounded at the Battle of the Bulge.
“She was decorated by both France and Belgium for her service.
“After the war, she returned to South Dakota, spending 31 years working for the Indian Health Service, including as director of nursing, while raising eight children.
“She was a powerful advocate for Native Americans throughout her life, and was a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council for four years and a founding member of the North American Indian Women’s Association.
“Even in retirement, Marcella continued to advocate for Native Americans – and also found time to open a quilting shop with her granddaughter, featuring, among other things, the Lakota star quilt, used for honoring and naming ceremonies, memorials, and various life achievements.
“Earlier in November, she traveled to Oklahoma to attend the ceremony for her induction into the National Native American Hall of Fame.
“Mr. President, Bob Dole died on Sunday.
“Bob served as an officer in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II.
“Late in the war, he was seriously wounded in action during an attempt to rescue a fellow soldier, and he bore the resulting injuries for the rest of his life.
“Forced by his wounds to abandon his plans to be a surgeon, he quickly found another way to help his fellow Americans:
“He was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1950 and never looked back.
“In 1960, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and in 1968 he won election to the U.S. Senate, where he served for 27 years.
“He was a senator’s senator, a master of procedure and a true legislator, whose achievements ranged from Social Security reform to veterans legislation to the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“Even after he ended his long career in public service, Bob continued to serve.
“He was an important supporter of the World War II Memorial here in D.C., and could often be found there visiting with his fellow veterans who had traveled in on Honor Flights.
“Mr. President, Marcella and Bob came from different places and different backgrounds, and so far as I know, never crossed paths in this life.
“But they had in common that abiding commitment to service that characterized so many members of the Greatest Generation.
“Both Bob and Marcella spent their entire lives serving their country and their fellow citizens.
“Even retirement didn’t slow them down.
“Mr. President, the Greatest Generation was a fixture of American life for many decades.
“But its members are rapidly slipping away.
“Fewer than 250,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are still with us.
“And that number dwindles every day.
“We need to make sure that the passing of the Greatest Generation does not mean the passing of the virtues they modeled for us: Humility and patriotism and quiet service. Duty and perseverance.
“We need to remember Bob Dole and Marcella LeBeau – and the many others like them – who in war and in peace lived lives of service to our country.
“Mr. President, my thoughts and prayers are with Bob and Marcella’s families – with Bob’s wife Elizabeth and his daughter Robin, and with Marcella’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.”