Paul DeBlieck discovered he had been named the Redwood Falls American Legion Post 38 Legionnaire of the Year May 15.
He couldn’t do the Gazette’s traditional Legionnaire of the Year interview right away, however.
It seems he was headed out the door for a vacation in Alaska, visiting some of the places and people he had served with in that part of the U.S. DeBlieck grew up on a farm in the Tracy/Milroy area, graduating from high school at Marshall.
After graduation, DeBlieck went over to Alexandria Tech for two years in order to get a certificate in law enforcement.
“The draft was going on right then, and my friends and neighbors decided I was eligible,” he said. “I thought I’d just enlist for three years as an MP (military policeman), so I could choose my assignment. They told me that if I spent 13 months in Korea, I could choose where I wanted to go after that.”
In Fall 1971 DeBlieck signed up, and by January 1972 he was on his way to Korea. The Korean War was officially over by nearly 20 years at that point, so being an Army policeman in those days was relatively peaceful and quiet.
“Mostly it was gate check, guard duty and traffic control,” he explained.
When his 13 months were getting close to being done, DeBlieck had to make a decision: Europe or Alaska.
“I actually chose Europe first,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d get over there any other way, but on the way to Korea we stopped off in Anchorage, Alaska, and I was enthralled."
As it happened, the military gave him his second choice instead of the first, and DeBlieck spent from September 1973 to January 1975 stationed in Alaska.
He loved it.
“I did lots of fishing and hunting, lots of moose hunting, lots of salmon and trout fishing,” he said. “When I’d get off work for my midnight shift it would still be daylight, so I’d go up to one of those little lakes and go trout fishing.”
After leaving the military, DeBlieck came back to his parents’ house in southwestern Minnesota to decide what to do next.
“I was all set to get a return ticket to Alaska. Then I heard there was an opening for a deputy at the Redwood County sheriff’s office,” he said.
That settled that.
DeBlieck spent 32 years as a Redwood County deputy, marrying Mary and becoming dad to Neil and Craig during that time.
Now retired, DeBlieck fills his time as a member of the Redwood Falls City Council and serving as the Redwood Falls American Legion’s current finance officer.
It took awhile for him to decide he wanted to get involved with the Legion, however.
“My father actually signed me up when I returned to the states,” DeBlieck said. “He was in the Korean conflict, in the Minnesota National Guard when they were called up.”
Family and work took up most of DeBlieck’s time for years.
“There were too many activities going on. I didn’t start getting involved in the Legion until about 2000,” he said. “I was involved in other civic groups before that.”
Today DeBlieck’s duties as finance officer mean he is responsible for not only the Legion’s financial accounts, but also those of the other activities the Legion sponsors — local baseball and school patrol, especially.
“I’m also on the Honor Guard, averaging about twice a month with that,” he said. “I’m usually happy when I’m not called up for that.”
What does Paul DeBlieck get from being in the American Legion?
“Mostly the camaraderie,” he said, “that and working for the betterment of not only the Legion, but the community.”