Historian Interviews with Nebraska American Legion Members at Boys’ State

By: Hunter Parks, Jake Inthavongsa, Christian Eckhardt, Wallace Wilkins III, William Mahr, Edward Olander

The American Legion does so much for our veterans. From providing a place to serve and a place to feel welcome after they return from active duty. They have made many programs not only benefiting veterans but also the youth. Three of the veterans involved are, Bill Montz, Doug Boldt, and Dennis Kennedy.

The Legion was founded in September, 1919, reserved as a patriotic veterans organization. It started as a group of U.S. Vets and turned into one of the largest non-profit groups (legion.org), was founded originally in Paris, France on March 15th, 1919. It was founded to improve troop morale. Later, on November 10-12 the official adoption of the American Legion Constitution. Later, the name “American Legion” was officially adopted May 8-10. The legion has many active members, each with unique and fascinating stories on how and why they got involved in the Legion. Here are a few of their stories.

Doug Boldt was born Callaway Nebraska. He joined the Navy in 1967 and was deployed in 1969 and reached the rank of Petty Officer Third Class by the end of his service. Doug was a military barber for the U.S. Navy. Doug served on 2 different ships within two years. He spent time on both the U.S.S. Arlington and the U.S.S. Niagara Falls. The U.S.S. Arlington was a communications relay ship that was involved in the Apollo 10, 11, and 12 missions. The U.S.S. Niagara Falls was a Mars-class combat stores ship that is known for its service in the Vietnam War. The U.S.S. Niagara Falls was also one of many ships dosed in agent orange. Agent Orange is a defoliant that was used in the Vietnam war that contained many toxic chemicals which has many negative effects and it kills basically anything it touches. Doug Boldt was discharged in 1970 and became involved in the legion in 1976 after he saw the negative effects of Agent Orange on many of his fellow veterans. Doug Boldt did not attend Boys State but both his son and his brother attended. Doug Boldt also became the first Vice President of Boys state and is member boys state standing committee. Throughout his years Doug has seen how technology has changed Boys state in a positive light which has helped improve the speakers’ presentations.

Bill Montz, from Lincoln, Nebraska is a retired Coast Guard Auxiliary, Air Force and Air Guard in technical rescue. A type of rescue dealing with any rescue not falling into a normal procedure. The main goal of technical rescue is to “remove them from harm or remove the harm from them”, in Bill’s words. Some examples being falling down missile silos or mine shafts. One of his more recent missions he was involved in placing him in the burn unit for twenty-one days after saving two people from an explosion. His opinion on the legion is that it’s one of the best ways to serve the state and the nation. Veterans are taught to serve and even after they leave that obligation does not. He said about why many vets served: “Generally, most veterans that are mentally and physically able to serve have a desire to serve. And the American Legion is a good place for that.” One of the most salient things Bill said was over what the Legion rested on, being: God, Country, and Youth. When I asked him on why he joined Boys’ State he gave a relatively simple answer, The Adjutant asked Bill to serve, he said it was a good gig. It’s his third year serving and he’s been enjoying it thoroughly. To close it out, I’ll leave you with something Bill said about his service to Boys’ State. “ They keep calling me back, so I must be doing something right.”

Dennis Kennedy, seventy-two, from Culbertson, Nebraska. After serving in the Vietnam War for four years, his Uncle suggested joining the American Legion. He postponed for many years until just recently and has enjoyed much of what the legion has done for him. His rank was staff sergeant when he left the military. His service was recon, he went out on many flying missions. Previously he did not know much about Boys’ State and the Legion, but he cared deeply about Veterans and the youth. This last year marked the 100th birthday of a good friend of Dennis’s who was a WWII veteran and his towns legion birthday. To celebrate both they made a float commemorating the veteran and legion with the WWII veteran being the guest of honor on the Legion’s float. This was the last gift the veteran was able to receive from the community before he passed away soon after.

The Legion has a vast and varied history, from its founding, its newly created programs, and its older, very helpful and ongoing commitments. To its amazing members, with their very unique and admirable stories of their service and beginning of their membership. And their dedication to teach and make sure that the leaders of tomorrow are well informed and ready for the next step in their lives.