All local veterans encouraged to join American Legion

J. Patrick Eaken

Elmore American Legion Post 279 Commander Ron Distel and Vice Commander Dick Kuhlman want to remind all veterans that they can now join the Legion.
In a significant legislative victory for the American Legion, President Donald Trump signed a bill July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941.
The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. service members who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war.
However, the LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act) also opens the door for approximately six million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible.
“What is the ‘LEGION Act’?  Until the passing of the changes in membership criteria, veterans could only qualify for membership if they served on active duty during the times of active warfare,” Kuhlman said in an email to The Press. 
“The gaps in eligibility occurred notably during the Cold War. In the simplest of terms, with this new act, veterans that served and were honorably discharged any time after December 7, 1941, are able to join the American Legion,” Kuhlman’s email continues. 
Now that the legislation has been signed, The American Legion’s eligibility criteria immediately changes from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 to a time later determined by the federal government. No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed.
“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue,” American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad said. “The families of those who were killed or wounded during these wartime acts should take pride in knowing that we recognize their sacrifice and service. Moreover, we are proud to welcome any of the six million living veterans from the previously unrecognized periods into our organization and call them ‘Legionnaires.’
"These veterans and their family members can now enjoy all the benefits of their service which they so richly deserve.” He went on to say, "As we celebrate our centennial anniversary, we hold to the same truths that our founders appropriately crafted a century ago. Among those, a veteran is a veteran.  It does not matter whether a veteran fought enemies on foreign soil, protected our interests in an ocean far away, or secured our national defense here at home.  Their service is what matters most."
The law’s journey began on Feb. 14 when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced S. 504, along with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. A companion measure, H.R. 1641, was introduced in the House by Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Ben Cline, R-Va.
Reistad expressed gratitude to the bipartisan members of Congress for passing the legislation.
“We are grateful that President Trump fully acknowledges the importance of the American Legion by signing the LEGION Act in the White House today – just one week after it passed the House of Representatives,” Reistad said. “In an era of partisan gridlock, Republicans and Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly recognized the importance of allowing thousands of honorable but previously ineligible veterans the right to join the largest and most influential veterans organization in the country.”
Reistad pointed out that existing American Legion membership applications are in the process of being updated but can still be used. “In the meantime, I recommend that prospective Legionnaires and recruiters write ‘LEGION Act’ in the eligibility date section of American Legion membership applications if they fall outside the previous war eras,” Reistad said. “The larger pool of veterans now eligible for the American Legion will also open their family members to eligibility in the Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary as well.”
Kuhlman explained, “This legislation covers not only the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard veterans, but it also extends to affiliated groups, including the Auxiliary and Sons of Legion.  Membership is also extended to the Legion Riders, as long as it includes membership in one of the other groups,”
To reach Elmore Post 279, call Distel at 419-377-9864 or Kuhlman at 419-862-2417.


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