Post historians who have chronicled the last membership year in the life of their posts are beginning to finalize those chronicles in order to submit them for judging during upcoming department conventions – the first stage of the National Post History Contest.
Entries in the categories of One-Year Post Narrative and One-Year Post Yearbook will be judged by the department historian during the convention. Only the first-place finisher in each category, certified as such by the department historian, will be sent to National Headquarters in Indianapolis for the National Post History Contest, where it will be judged by a committee of past and present department and national historians during the NEC Fall Meetings, Oct. 14-15. Winners will receive plaques. All national entries must be certified and submitted to National Headquarters by Sept. 15.
Entries aren’t rushed together overnight. When Legion National Historian Larry Rozier announced the winners of the 2012 contest to the NEC last fall, he commented, "I was a post historian for five years, a department historian for seven years and a judge for six years. I can firmly attest that preserving the histories of the posts and departments is a very time-consuming task. It takes a year of long hours and a lot of dedicated hard work."
Leslie Shreve Sr. has been post historian of Frank B. Bartlett Post 7 in Buckhannon, W.Va., for five years. During his tenure, Post 7’s entries have won, placed second and attained an honorable mention in the Post Yearbook category. Shreve, who also serves as post commander and vice commander of the department’s District 3, estimates that "a good 150 hours’ worth of my time goes into each entry. It is really a continuing process, with the involvement of everyone in the post and unit." He counts on as many people as possible feeding him pictures, news stories and more from the post’s activities.
"It is a very time-consuming task sorting and organizing all of the material collected over a year," Shreve said. "Some may think you can complete it a month at a time, but in the final analysis it comes down to putting it all together." As to why he keeps working so hard year after year, Shreve says, "Of greatest importance, this program preserves and documents the past so that next generations may see the path Post 7 has traveled," and concludes that the contest itself isn’t the biggest reward of putting together entries: "If you believe in the programs and give them your best effort, then you are always a winner – maybe not with a plaque or a piece of paper, but the satisfaction of knowing you are furthering The American Legion and what it stands for, and you have given it your best effort."
Amber Robinson is new to the position of post historian of Post 284 in Colonial Heights, Va., but held the assistant position when she entered her first entries, which proceeded to the national competition from the department convention. She agrees that pulling the information together is time-consuming, but "well worth that time when I get to see the members of the post look at the books and see the things we have done throughout the year. By looking at the history of the post, we can see where we have been and what we have done for the community and the veterans in our area."
Among Robinson’s suggestions for those wanting to start entering chronicles in the national history contests: follow the guidelines precisely (they’re located in the Post Officer’s Guide,starting on page 152), take lots of pictures of all post activities, and hang on to meeting minutes, post newsletters., etc., for already-recorded information.
Department convention dates vary by department. For this and other information on the contest, contact your department historian – a directory of departments can be found here. The National Department History Contest, for the best yearly department narratives and yearbooks, will also take place at National Headquarters during Fall Meetings; these entries are due by Sept. 15 as well.