For more than 10 years, Gene Bennett’s face was a familiar sight in Jefferson as he promoted patriotic events, raised money for veterans’ causes and mentored young people in the community as a leader in the American Legion.
Sergeant Major Bennett, who retired from the United States Army for with 30 years of active duty service, recently retired as Commander of the American Legion Post 56 in Jefferson after serving in that position for seven years.
“I joined the American Legion Post 56 in Jefferson because I missed the camaraderie that I had with soldiers on active duty,” Bennett recalls. “Joining the American Legion and being with veterans felt like the right thing to do. I believed the Legion would give me the opportunity to be associated with my fellow veterans and to give help and support to them and their families and to continue serving my country.”
After his first year in the Legion, he was elected to serve as the Post 56 Senior Vice Commander and he served in that position for three years. After three years in the position of Senior Vice Commander, he was elected to serve as the Post 56 Commander and served as the Commander for seven years.
Bennett said that he had several goals as the Commander, with the first being to support all veterans and their families, not only post members but veterans and families anywhere. This includes providing financial support, food support, veterans benefits and VA information and hospital and home visits.
Under Bennett’s leadership, the Legion has also held Memorial Day Programs, Veteran’s Day Programs, the folding of flags and the playing of Taps and other funeral support and details, providing support to school JROTC programs, increasing Post membership from 115 members to 270 members in seven years, the startup of The Post 56 Sons of The American Legion chapter and The American Legion Riders chapter.
“My number two goals was to mentor our young people in our communities and county,” he said. ‘The post and its members became very active and involved in Jackson County Schools and their youth programs. Two of the most popular Legion programs are The Boys State and Girls State Programs. We went from the sending three or four high schools students my first year as commander to sending 16 students my last year. There were other programs that the post sponsored in the cities and county.”