SYRACUSE — Steven E. Wright said he always knew he was going to be in the military and serve his country.

From 1969 to 1989 Wright devoted his life to the Navy. He started out in air intelligence with the Navy, then went to law school and ended up serving as an attorney in the Judge Advocate Generals Corps.

Now as a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, the retired officer will serve his country as the national chaplain of the American Legion.

"For me it's not the kind of thing you go out to try to become, it's just one of those things (where) you can go out and serve in a different way," Wright said of his newly appointed position.

As chaplain, Wright will travel the country conducting memorial services and offering prayers during national American Legion meetings. He will also direct department commanders on how to work with their department and with post chaplains to make sure the principles of the American Legion are upheld.

Wright said the American Legion is nondenominational but supports specific values. The Legion promotes daily family prayer, religious education for children and regular religious service participation, Wright said.

"It sounds maybe a little strange for old grizzled military guys, but the Legion is clear that our country was founded on values and principles, and at the heart of that is (that) our nation's founding fathers were led by God," Wright said. "If we get away from that, we'll be in trouble."

Wright is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has served as an LDS bishop. He grew up in Salt Lake City but now lives in Syracuse and works as a real estate broker in Layton.

In August, shortly after the National American Legion Convention, the new American Legion commander, Tom Bock, named Wright as the Legion's national chaplain. Wright is a member of the Robin Wetzler American Legion Post #139 in Ogden. He will serve as national chaplain for one year.

Wright has also served as the Utah State Department chaplain and recently as a department judge advocate. He said the initial emphasis of the Legion is to help veterans, but there are several other worthwhile programs the legion supports, including Boys and Girls State and American Legion Baseball.

He said he believes everyone should be involved in organizations that support American values.

"It's a wonderful opportunity," Wright said. "You can't imagine what good people you have a chance to associate with."