Military Monday: Army vet Kevin Black now serves as American Legion commander

Kevin Black as a young U.S. Army enlistee with his father, James R. Black. (provided photo)
Staff Writer

Kevin Black grew up in Fritch, the fourth of five sons. Black said he was part of a “rough crowd” as a teenager. So at 16, he forged his dad’s signature, without his parents’ knowledge, and joined the U.S. Army. Basic training, as well as AIT (advanced individual training), was spent at Fort Bliss, Texas, which is where Black turned 17. Over the next 11 years, Black was stationed in Europe and Fort Riley, Kansas, alternating between the two. While in Europe, Black served in places such as Germany, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Black retired from the Army with full disability then returned home to “a place I swore I would never come back to,” Black says.
The transition from military to civilian life was “rough for a while because I grew up in the military,” Black said.
He continued: “I lived in a small tent down at Harbor Bay. I had family and a house here. I just couldn’t live in society for a while. I didn’t know about the VA or the other programs. A park ranger came and checked on me every once in a while and made sure everything was okay. The park ranger loaded me up one day and took me to the VA, saying, ‘You belong here’. It took a little while, but I think I bounced back OK.”
Black has had a service dog for four-and-a-half years, a solid-black German Shepherd, that he named after a sergeant.
"When I have a nightmare or a flashback,” Black says. "He’ll wake me up before it gets bad. He’ll go turn the bedroom light on. He’ll come back and lay his head on my chest until I go back to sleep. Then, he’ll turn the light off and get back in his bed or recliner. A lot of times, he goes with me, especially if I’m having a really rough day. My biggest thing is, I really need him if I want to sleep. He’s been the reason I’ve gotten off a whole bunch of meds,” Black says.
Black is the commander of the 18th District of the American Legion, which is located in Borger, imparting the knowledge he has gained to veterans. The American Legion was founded in 1919 and is the oldest and largest veterans organization in the world.
Prior to the creation of the VA system, soldiers leaving the military received a check for $76 and a bus ticket home. All veterans can join the American Legion.
Black says of his role as district commander: “I deem what I do now for the American Legion more important than what I did when I was in the military because I’m taking care of our veterans. It means the world to me to help somebody out and get them pointed in the right direction. If anyone has a problem or knows of a veteran who does, please bring them to the Legion.”
In addition to helping veterans, the American Legion also serves the community by working with the Boy Scouts and giving scholarships. Monthly meetings are held the third Tuesday at 6 p.m. Food is provided, and the public is welcome.
"We enjoy the camaraderie of being together,” Black says.
Black had this to say about the military: “You go into the military for a gauntlet of reasons, but once you’re there, you learn purpose and the reason there is a military. It’s to keep the wolves off the doorstep of your family and friends back home. I think joining the military ought to be mandatory. If you want citizenship in the United States, I think you ought to join. Spend two, three, years in, grow up, figure out what you want to do with your life. Then, be given the opportunity to stay in and pursue a career with the service or return to civilian life. I think it’s good for the parents to be able to let a child go. The military has every career imaginable in it. Show respect. A word of thanks means a lot to me.”
One of the best VA facilities is in Amarillo. There is help for any veteran who needs it. The service officer for the 18th District of the American Legion, Shane Allen, can also be contacted for any assistance that is needed. His phone number is 806-717-8729.
If you know of a veteran or active serviceman or woman who you think has a good story for the newspaper, please contact Tim Howsare, editor, at or 806-273-5611.