For a week twice a year, The American Legion's National Headquarters in Indianapolis comes alive, its halls bustling with visiting members of commissions, committees and the National Executive Committee from all around the Legion. On Monday, in the midst of this activity, a workshop was held in the National Headquarters library by the National Association of Department Historians of The American Legion (NADHAL). Conducted by Denise Rohan, past department historian and current vice commander of Wisconsin, and vice president of NADHAL's Area 6; and Charemon Dunham, past department historian of South Dakota and vice president of NADHAL's Area 7, the workshop trained eight new department historians from across the country to judge the post and department narratives and yearbooks submitted for the National Post History Contest and the National Department History Contest.
The role of a post or department historian is an important one. He or she is in charge of recording with text and photographs the activities of the Legion. Such recording is useful not only for current members, but it also, in the words of Rohan and Dunham, "helps recruit new members, officers and committee chairmen; [and] allows the community to see what you are doing." The visiting historians learned about the strict and precise guidelines on presentation that all submitted entries must follow – but also about the room left for creativity and individuality. The post entries were judged at the department conventions earlier this year by department historians. Only the certified first-place finishers in each category were sent on to this week's contest. The department entries were sent separately, and all were looked at this week by the judges – a committee of past and present department and national historians. Over all four categories, a total of 47 entries were submitted. The judges sat at long tables with the books in front of them and checklists beside them, grading according to numerical values for conforming to each presentation standard.
National Historian James Fratolillo of Massachusetts announced the winners on Thursday morning, during his report before the assembled National Executive Committee. Overseeing the history contests was one of his first acts as national historian, and he told the NEC that "to say I am passionate about recording the history of this great organization is an understatement." The top entries (with the first three awards receiving plaques) in each category are:
Post and department historians should consider starting now on an entry for the 2010 calendar year, to be judged at the 2011 Fall Meetings in Indianapolis. For more information, contact your department historian. A directory of Legion departments can be found here. http://www.legion.org/departments