Native Texan Paul E. Dillard, a Vietnam vet, visits American Legion Argonne Post 56 for a dinnertime gathering.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - American Legion National Commander Paul Dillard visits American Legion Post 56 in Sherwood. Also pictured: Dana Speer, from American Legion Newberg Post 57. American Legion Argonne Post 56 in Sherwood hosted a very important visitor Monday, June 20.

Legion members were treated to a dinnertime visit by American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard.

A native Texan, Dillard, who was elected national commander in September 2021, during the organization's 102nd national convention, joined the U.S. Navy and served in Vietnam through four campaigns, including the Tet offensive.

Dillard received an honorable discharge as a radarman second class petty officer from the Navy Reserve before attending Grayson County Junior College and East Texas State University.

Bill Middleton, a former mayor of Sherwood and currently second vice commander of the Sherwood American Legion Post, described efforts to land Dillard at the June 20 dinner event.

"We had received a call from the headquarters, back where they're located, that they wanted to come and visit us," Middleton said. "It was just kind of out of the blue."

Middleton continued, "He just wanted to come out and look at some of the smaller areas that he had never seen before. I don't know how he selected our lodge, but he did. It was great."

Middleton said Phil Morton, who is second vce president at the Sherwood post, headed up the committee to bring Dillard to Sherwood.

"It was just after our convention time," Middleton recalled. "We had the Oregon convention up in Beaverton."

According to Middleton, Dillard visited Sherwood in part to give a heads-up on legislation in Washington, D.C.

On June 16, the U.S. Senate approved a bill that ensures millions of veterans exposed to fumes from burn pits will have access to Department of Veterans Affairs care and benefits. The legislation was expected to be signed by President Joe Biden.

In addition to the burn pit law, Dillard has also has expressed concern about the rate of suicides among veterans.

"Dillard has also been a big advocate of suicide prevention for veterans," Middleton said. "It's a huge issue for veterans. Our post has lost two to suicide in the last ten years."

American Legion Post 56 in Sherwood was packed as attendees waited for the dinnertime arrival of Dillard.

"We had a full house," Middleton said. "He brought in his entourage."

As busy as Dillard was, meeting as many people as possible, the Gazette was able to collect a quick quote.

"It's a wonderful post," Dillard said. "A lot of great folks here. It's nice, very nice."

Asked if it's common for a national commander to visit a smaller city, such as Sherwood, Middleton said, "I'm not sure if he even went to very many other ones. Many years ago, the national commander was from Burns, so I think that commander probably visited some of the local posts. This is the first I've ever heard of a national commander visiting a local post in Oregon."

Middleton said it was a lot of fun getting a chance to meet Dillard, adding, "I had never met the national commander before, ever, and I've belonged here over 20 years. This is really a great event to have him out here. We were really lucky. It was certainly a special time."

There are 225 members of the American Legion Post in Sherwood.

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