Q. Did National Rifle Association (NRA) spokesman Wayne LaPierre ever serve in the military? He's the right age for Vietnam. The reason I ask is that virtually every person I know who is into guns has never served in combat -- or even the military. -- C.J., of Columbia
A. You can add Mr. LaPierre to your list. Born Nov. 8, 1948, LaPierre, now 64, was indeed at the height of his Selective Service eligibility during the Vietnam War in the mid to late 1960s.
But like me and untold thousands of other young men at the time, the NRA CEO spent those years in college with deferments. As a result, the primary enemies he has kept figuratively in his sights for the past 35 years are those whom he sees chipping away at the Second Amendment.
If you're interested in his background, LaPierre earned a bachelor's in education in 1972 from Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., followed by a master's in government from Boston College. He soon went into lobbying and has spent his life in government and political advocacy.
After serving as a legislative aid, LaPierre joined the NRA in 1977 as a liaison for the NRA's Institute of Legislative Action. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming the NRA-ILA's executive director in 1986 and the group's overall executive direct in 1991.
He also has served on the boards of such groups as the American Association of Political Consultants and the American Conservative Union. His title now is CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, which is thought to pay him roughly a million per year.
As you know, he is a lightning rod for criticism both good and bad. While NRA membership climbed dramatically in the 1990s, his description of federal agents as "jackbooted thugs" even after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 prompted former President George H.W. Bush to resign his NRA life membership in 1995. (Find his letter at www.nytimes.com.)
His 2000 statement that former President Bill Clinton would permit killing to further his push for gun control brought mild criticism from even then NRA President Charlton Heston, who called it "extreme rhetoric." An accomplished author on gun-rights issues, he further stoked his controversial history with statements that followed the recent Sandy Hook, Conn., school shooting.
Q. A few of us at the retirement home recently began discussing whatever became of Benedict Arnold, the notorious traitor during the Revolutionary War. Did he ever return to the United States? Where is he buried?
-- Carl Williams, of Fairview Heights
A. Probably not many remember what happened after Arnold was caught trying to surrender West Point to the British, but he actually stayed in the U.S. to fight the American colonists.
That's right -- two months after George Washington granted his request for his wife's safe passage to Philadelphia, Arnold spent most of the next year as a commissioned brigadier general in the British Army. He led raids in Virginia, proposed attacks on economic targets in New York and captured Fort Griswold, Conn.
But the tide was turning, and soon after Gen. Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in October 1781, Arnold quickly got out of Dodge, sailing off to England with his family.
The closest he came to returning to the U.S. was in 1785, when he and his son Richard moved to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, where he set up shop as a land speculator and trader of goods from the West Indies. But even there he would gain many business enemies, forcing him to return to London in 1791.
Suffering from old war wounds and worsening gout, Arnold died in 1801 at age 60. Legend has it his final words were "Let me die in this old (Continental Army) uniform in which I fought my battles. May God forgive me for wearing any other!" The father of eight was buried at St. Mary's Church in Battersea, London.
But despite that apocryphal deathbed conversion, his name still remains synonymous with "traitor" -- although there is a monument in Saratoga National Historical Park that reads "In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army ... " His name, however, is not mentioned.
To what Scott do many attribute the source of the expression "Great Scott!"?
Answer to Sunday's trivia: On Howdy Doody (long before the days of political correctness), Chief Thunderthud belonged to the Ooragnak tribe, which is "kangaroo" spelled backward. I thought it was ironic that Bob Keeshan, who played Clarabell the Clown on the show from 1948 until he left in 1952 over a salary dispute, would go on to fame as Captain Kangaroo. (He said he chose the name because of the huge pockets in his coat.) For the Howdy Doody fan who called me Monday, three people played the mute Clarabell: Keeshan followed by Robert "Nick" Nicholson and Lew Anderson, who finally said "Goodbye, kids" to close the final show on Sept. 24, 1960.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2465.