Many people donate their time and experience in Harvey County. One is retired Air Force Colonel Jack Bender III. He was recently reappointed to the Harvey County Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.
Bender's reason for being on these citizen advisory boards is his commitment to public service. His care for detail and procedure, as well as his expertise as a lawyer, have proved valuable to the board.
Bender also serves as a vice-president on the Board of Trustees of the Kansas Learning Center for Health in Halstead.
Volunteer work is nothing new to Bender. He has led an inspirational and varied life of service, remaining humble and even hesitant to share his achievements.
As a fifth grader, Bender heard a naturalization proceedings. He was impressed with the court room and thought he might like to become a lawyer. A high school and Sunday School teacher was instrumental as Bender overcame obstacles to go to Washburn University in Topeka. He graduated from the Air Force ROTC in 1966 and went on to law school, including studies abroad in Europe.
Bender served as the Assistant Attorney General of Kansas and as a judge advocate general (JAG) in the Air Force and Air Force Reserves. Three of the cases he defended were capitol crime cases. up for possible execution.
“I got two dismissed without trail. The third, I got a change of venue and got it reduced to a lesser offense, which took it out of capitol crime area. The accepted the plea, made no finding and put him on probation,” Bender said.
These cases led to him receiving the Federal Bar Association Younger Federal Lawyer Award signed by Earl Warren in 1973, for lawyers under age 35.
During his career, Bender represented a man in a divorce case, who was still a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Bender got the case thrown out. Ten years later, he met his client, Charles Plumb, now a motivational speaker. Plumb spoke about the man who had packed his parachute, saving his life the day he was shot down. Bender was able to share that as Plumb's lawyer, he too had been watching out for him. In looking over his own life, Bender credits his grade school teachers for “packing his parachute” and being a force behind his success.
From 1974-1990, Bender worked as a Senior Attorney at Boeing, with major programs such as Air Force One, B-52 Re-Wing and KC135 Re-Engine.
Now retired, Bender continues to be active as an Air Force Academy liaison, as he has for the last 22 years. “My purpose is to assist students through the very difficult process, to advise them as early as possible what they to be doing in school and outside of school to be considered a viable prospect.” He also assists the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps in interviewing candidates for scholarships.
For the last six years, Bender has given legal advice the Kansas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. Bender encourages Air Force Academy hopefuls to participate in the CAP Cadet Program, a leadership program to train youth ages 12 to 18.
As a young man and after his retirement, Bender served as a Disaster Services Volunteer for the Red Cross. He assisted on tornado assignments across Kansas and Missouri. In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, he spent six weeks in New York City, working at a victims' family assistance center and then supporting logistics for emergency workers.
As a hobby, Bender has become a Civil War lecturer, reenactor and historian. He acquired letters from the Civil War at an auction while still working at Boeing. They have led him to many interesting discoveries, even concerning his own ancestors. One letter was written to James Young. Bender found a graveyard established by Young's brother, Evan, on the outskirts of Humboldt. There are tombstones of three civil war soldiers; George Myer and two Deal brothers. Bender has many interesting stories about these families. He has spoken at Civil War Round Tables, historical and genealogical societies, civic clubs, and schools in and around Kansas.