Al Roker already knows that the heart-tugging emotion has been off the charts this week on “Today,” because he has been there for all of it. Yesterday, May 23, Al Roker joined Tom Hanks and Sheryl Crow in salute of veterans and caregivers in a pre-Memorial Day celebration. Savannah Guthrie was there, too, and the rain clouds broke just before Sheryl Crow was ready to take the stage for her spirited and heartfelt set of songs that had everyone singing along.

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What might have escaped many cameras is the tender attention that Al Roker bestowed on Elizabeth Dole. Mrs. Dole is a former senator, once Red Cross president, and permanent caregiver to her husband, former Senator, Bob Dole. Roker did more than pay lip service to her Hidden Heroes campaign, an outreach of her Elizabeth Dole Foundation. He gave personal words of encouragement and thanks to the civic-minded spouse throughout the morning, quietly speaking in her ear from the stage, even amidst the superstar presence of the guest host.

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Video segments throughout the broadcast exhibited the crucial role of caregivers in veterans' lives.

Today, May 24, was another special day for Al Roker, but in a much more personal sense. He offered “Today” fans a very warm and nostalgic trip through his childhood years in St. Albans, Queens. The journey was not far in miles from his Rockefeller Plaza station on “Today” and the heartfelt touch was even closer with a touching interview with his parents.

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Books and big dreams

Al Roker is likely the last official senior citizen left on “Today” since Kathie Lee Gifford departed the morning show last month, but the affable weatherman was completely at home taking the Q4 bus and munching a bite at a Jamaican bakery. Many places of his childhood are no longer around, but the library which fed the broadcaster’s adventuresome spirit through many summers still fosters families and learning.

Al vividly remembered getting his junior library card with Queens Library president, Dennis Walcott.

He poked fun at himself, saying that the summer he read 110 books not only signified his voracious appetite for literature, but also his lack of athletic prowess. Both men agreed that the era of their growing up was akin to “the black ‘Leave It to Beaver’” that is impossible for many families today.

All credit to mom

At the close of Al Roker’s look back for his segment of “Hometown Glory,” the co-host celebrated an interview done with his parents 20 years ago.

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Beyond the treasured memory of seeing his mother and father in the same house where he grew up, the most precious gift of the exchange was how the parents viewed the early struggles of being a family of eight in a home with the one bathroom, no washing machine, and sometimes, no idea how food was going to be on the table.

“She did it. She did it. I marvel at it myself,” spoke Roker’s father. The patriarch also reflected that it was more than a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul at times.

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“You didn't know about Peter, and you didn't know about Paul, you just knew there was food on the table,” dad Roker reminded.

“And it was fun,” mom Roker added, remembering the joys of the lean times.

Al Roker is often the first face of “Today” on the scene to lend a hand or a smile after hardship. Last November, he fed California firefighters with help from famous chefs. He has already been to Alabama in the wake of recent tornadoes.

The gifts from his own parents are also passed on in how he fathers his own children, his son, Nick, with special needs, and daughters, Courtney and Leila, with Deborah Roberts.

The lessons of childhood stay forever, and struggles can strengthen the heart, along with growing determination. Al Roker adds his own humor to that mix, and his smile still makes any day better. The 13 miles from Queens to the Plaza have meant the world to the “Today” favorite traveler.

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