Bob Dole hosting a party for wounded veterans at his home at his Watergate home last week. (Stephen R. Brown)

Bob Dole had a very difficult 2010. But he came out of it with some new friends.

On Friday, he and wife Elizabeth celebrated his 88th birthday by hosting wounded soldiers from Walter Reed and their families for dinner at their Watergate apartment. It’s part of a “reverse birthday” tradition the former GOP senators have kept up over the years: Instead of giving each other gifts, they’ve sent presents to needy seniors or thrown parties for school kids.

They had a particular connection with this year’s guests, say friends who were there: Bob Dole spent about 10 months of last year at Walter Reed, going in for knee surgeries, a hematoma, and a couple bouts with pneumonia. Among the 100 guests were soldiers he met there. The WWII vet declared that, with all due respect, Tom Brokaw was wrong about his demographic: “I”m looking at the greatest generation right here.”