Two Bobs from Kansas were at Washington’s National Mall on a recent Saturday.
One of the men, Sen. Bob Dole makes it a point to be there every Saturday to shake hands with visiting veterans. The other man was Bob Fischer of Hutchinson, who happened to be there for a special visit with his wife, Mary, and extended family.
On that day both Bobs were greeted by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who was casually dressed and walking around the World War II Memorial with his wife, who had a dog on a leash.
Fischer, 91, said the man came up to him and asked if he had served in the military. When Bob replied that he had been in WWII, the man pressed a medallion in Fischer’s palm and thanked him for his service. Very quickly before Fischer could look at the medallion, his grandson, Daniel Modlin, took a photo of Fischer and the stranger.
As they walked away, Fischer’s son-in-law, Jim Pomerleau of Colorado Springs, asked if he knew who that man was.
“He was just another guy as far as I was concerned,” Fischer said. Then Pomerleau, a retired colonel, told him the man he just shook hands with was Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
Fischer looked at the medallion he had been handed. Ashton B. Carter, Secretary of Defense, was engraved on the front. On the back was the Department of Defense insignia.
“It was just one of those happenstance things,” said Fischer. “A minor exchange.”
On that Saturday, May 28, Carter wrote on his Facebook page, “Out on the National Mall today I ran into Senator Bob Dole. Without his tireless efforts, there would be no World War II Memorial. He comes to the memorial every Saturday to greet visitors and share stories.”
In the photo with Dole, Carter was wearing the same striped golf shirt he wore in the photo with Fischer.
Pomerleau was delighted his father-in-law had the encounter with one of the president’s cabinet members.
“What’s the chance of that happening? Zero.” Pomerleau said.
Though he had visited the WWII Memorial before, for Bob Fischer the encounter with Carter was a highlight of the trip he took with his family.