Service to others motivates veteran
Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.
On a recent morning Paul Heckman’s pride in the U.S. Army, or of the American Legion were not on his sleeve.
Rather, they could be found on his head and chest.
He wore a distinctive “U.S. Army Retired” cap and a Freedom Rock T-shirt.
Heckman’s U.S. Army career consisted of active duty from 1952-54, at Camp Polk (later re-named Fort Polk) in Louisiana.
Thirty-seven years in the Army Reserves followed.
He retired at age 65, as an E-9, the highest level for an enlistee.
The Freedom Rock T-shirt symbolizes Heckman’s passion for the American Legion, an organization he joined Nov. 4, 1954, the same day he finished active duty.
Fittingly, the Freedom Rock is near the front entrance of Marshalltown’s Frank Lewis Glick American Legion Post 46.
He joined the local post in 1955.
Be it talking about post history, its golf course, the Freedom Rock, or fundraisers, it is evident Heckman believes in the Legion’s mission nationally and locally.
He has backed it up with service, having continuously been either in a elected position, or a line officer, or a trustee with Post 46 since 1959.
Local post-related names, dates and numbers come easily to him.
“Our all-time high (for membership) was 1966 at 1,712,” he said. “Membership is key for any organization, be it the American Legion or Kiwanis Clubs.”
The conversation turned to a Post 46 visit last week by American Legion National Commander Charles Schmidt as part of the American Legion Rider’s “Vets for Valor” program.
“He is the first national commander from Oregon … that goes back to when the Legion was founded in 1919,” said Heckman.
“Paul has been the backbone of this post for many years,” said current Commander Randy Kessler. “He’s extremely dedicated to the American Legion and can tell you everything that has happened here since the day he joined. I’ll always be grateful for the advice he gave me after I was elected commander.”
Marshalltown became home for Heckman on the heels of Army active duty.
He could not pass up the opportunity to work with his brother building houses and installing drywall.
On Sept. 21, 1955, Heckman began another chapter in his life when he began work at Fisher Controls.
“I started as a technician trainee, and finished as a technician supervisor in the research department,” he said.
“I loved working at Fisher.”
He worked for the late R.A. Engle.
So significant were Engle’s contributions the R.A. Engle Tech Center on Governor Road stands tribute.
“He was beautiful guy to work for,” said Heckman, whose career at Fisher spanned 31 years.
He opted to take early retirement, but did not stay retired.
“R.S. Stover (a Marshalltown business) was short-handed … I worked there about four years,” he said.
Add driving rental cars to his skill set.
“Off and on, I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car for 17 years … I miss the people … everywhere I worked.”
Now a full-time volunteer, he considers giving his time either for the Marshalltown Matins Kiwanis Club, or Post 46 a passionate and necessary hobby.
Do you know a military veteran who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to Editor Jeff Hutton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact American Legion Post 46 Commander Randy Kessler at: email@example.com