PALMYRA, Mo. -- Robert "Bobby" Dodd of Palmyra received the top state award during the Missouri American Legion's state convention last month in Springfield.
Dodd, a member of Palmyra's Boots-Dickson Post 174 for the past 49 years, was honored as Missouri's Distinguished Legionnaire for 2018.
He was the only person to receive the award out of more than 40,000 American Legion members in Missouri.
"I was very honored," Dodd said in an interview.
Dodd was nominated for the award by his post. A statewide selection committee then picked him as the winner from all nominees.
Dodd has been commander of Boots-Dickson Post 174 for the past seven years. He also is serving a two-year term as commander of the American Legion's 1st District, which covers 20 local posts with 1,450 members in 11 Northeast Missouri counties.
Bob Ravenscraft, a member of Boots-Dickson Post 174, said it's "a tremendous honor" for Dodd to be recognized as Missouri's Distinguished Legionnaire.
"I think what sets him apart from so many others is his ability to get more participation from members in the legion's numerous beneficial community programs, and his willingness to take on so many responsibilities," Ravenscraft said.
Nik Yager, the post's historian, also said Dodd is deserving of the statewide recognition.
"Bobby is involved in every activity of our local post," Yager said.
"You will see him participating in local parades and military rites at veteran funerals. But behind the scenes, he is a chief organizer of practically all legion activities himself."
Those activities, Yager said, include the post's ambulatory program, which provides people in need with wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, shower chairs and stools; the children and youth committees, which honor young people participating in the post's school awards; and the Boys State, Cadet Patrol Academy and oratorical programs.
The post also does what it can to help local veterans who have fallen on hard times financially. "If the money is available, we help them out," Dodd said.
Dodd said he enjoys serving the community as a member of the post while also serving the district as its commander.
"I just believe in what the American Legion stands for, and I want to be a part of it," he said.
Dodd served in the U.S. Army from July 1967 to July 1969. His military service included a year-long deployment in Vietnam in 1968.
"It was one heck of an experience," Dodd said.
After he got out of the military, Dodd returned to Palmyra.
"I wasn't home a week before Archie Houston asked me to join the American Legion," he said, referring to another longtime member of Boots-Dickson Post 174. "I've been a member ever since."
Houston was the last person from Palmyra to be given the Distinguished Legionnaire Award. He received it in 1991.
"I'm honored to hang my plaque next to his in our post," Dodd said.
Dodd said he is proud to be associated with the American Legion because of what the organization does to help veterans while also serving the community in various ways. He especially enjoys helping to coordinate the post's honor guard and color guard activities, including appearances at parades and memorial services.
American Legion Post 174 will celebrate its 100th anniversary next March. The post has about 200 members, and about 35 of them regularly attend the organization's meetings and activities.
Dodd said he's concerned to see a persistent decline in membership in both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Veterans just aren't joining the groups like they once did.
"There's more World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans dying each day than we are signing up new members," he said.
Dodd, 70, retired in 2009 after a 43-year career manufacturing and assembling pumps and air compressors at Gardner-Denver Co. in Quincy, Ill. He and his wife, Rhonda, are the parents of two grown children -- Candace and Robby.