Local Vietnam veteran Paul D. Bennett was appointed as the American Legion National Historian 2016-17 at the organization’s national convention earlier this month in Cincinnati, Ohio. He will serve as one of 12 national officers.
Bennett, post adjutant and 40-year member of the George A. Whiteman Memorial Post 642, will work with the National Library/Museum staff of the 2.2 million-member organization. Locally he has served twice as Post 642 commander, twice as district commander and as western vice-commander for the American Legion Department of Missouri.
Since 2001, Bennett has served on the state level as department historian, and in 2010 he became the chairman for the American Legion Department of Child and Youth.
“What it really entails above what I do now, on the local level and state level, is I’ll make about four trips to the National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., within the 12-month period,” he said Monday. “It’s a one-year appointment and it’s an honor. It’s a real honor.
“I usually go to the Washington spring meeting and I always go to the historian conference … so it’s actually just two more,” he added.
He noted that during his appointment, he would be on-call for speaking engagements across the country if needed, plus he is responsible for communicating with the various state historians during the year.
“I’ll work with the National Headquarters Library/Museum, and their staff,” he added. “There are two people on the staff that keep me on the right track. I’m able to suggest changes, and if it’s accepted it goes before the NEC, National Executive Committee.”
As National Historian, Bennett will travel to Washington, D.C., Oct. 8-10 for the American Legion National Historian Conference where he will oversee the national history book judging for the organization.
“Which is history books from the different posts, throughout the American Legion,” he said. “All of the 50 states, plus Europe, the Philippines, and Mexico and Washington, D.C. You have all your state historians or a number of them, and past national historians come in for two days, and they judge these books.”
Bennett said the books are scrapbooks created by individual posts to record that locale’s history.
“Like we have done here in the past,” he said. “The state historian does a book also for the department commander for that year. About 10 years ago, here in Missouri I instituted an open class, which is strictly in Missouri.”
Bennett gave those individuals who did not wish to compete at a higher level the opportunity to create a book on the state level.
While at the National Historian Conference, Bennett said he is required to stay several additional days.
“I meet with the National Executive Committee,” he said. “I have to make a report with the history books and the winners.”
He added while in Washington, D.C., they will visit U.S. representatives and senators “to speak before a joint senate/house commission on veterans’ affairs.”
According to an American Legion media release, Bennett served twice in the military. He served in the U.S. Army from June 1960 through December 1968 and then again from June 1970 through September 1985.
“During his military service, he was assigned to the Army Security Agency and received advanced individual training specializing in Signal Security and OPSEC duties,” the release states. “In 1975, he was selected to become an Army Career Counselor, remaining in the Army Security Agency. His duty assignments included two tours in Korea, two tours in Germany, a visit to Vietnam in 1965 with the 1st Cavalry Division-Airmobile, and an extended tour in Okinawa. Stateside, his assignments included Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Devens, Massachusetts; Fort Riley, Kansas.; and Fort Hood, Texas. Bennett’s final assignment was to Fort Gillem, Georgia. During his career, he received numerous awards, including two Meritorious Service Medals.”
Besides his American Legion membership, Bennett is also a member of the Disabled Veterans of America, MoKan 40 & 8, the Catholic War Veterans Association and the 1st Cavalry Division Association of Vietnam. He has been married to U.S. Army veteran Judith Strunk for 39 years and has two daughters, one son and eight grandchildren.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.