Local American Legion leaders support effort to expand eligibility for membership

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 30 September 2019 at 10:22 am

The head of the nation’s largest veterans organization thanked President Trump for signing a bipartisan act which will recognize veterans who served during periods not previously considered “wartime.”

According to information provided by Jon Pera of Holley, a member of Jewell Buckman American Legion Post 529 and Orleans County Commander, the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act (LEGION Act), opens the doors for millions of veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they had previously not been eligible.

“I feel this is a long time coming, but well worth the wait,” Pera said. “We have two veterans in our post now who were ineligible for the American Legion before this change. The Legion has not changed its constitution or bylaws to warrant this. We were and still are a ‘war time veterans’ organization.’ These veterans made a commitment to put their life on the line for our country and way of life, just as we all did. A fact which not many know is, we lost 1,600 active duty personnel who, at the time, were ineligible for the American Legion. With the legislature acknowledging that we have been at war since Dec. 7, 1941, those vets will finally receive their just recognition.”

National Commander Brett P. Reistad said in a press release, “In an era of partisan gridlock, Republicans and Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly recognized the importance of allowing millions of honorable, but previously inelibible, veterans the right to join the largest and most influential veterans’ organization in the country.”

The gaps in the war eras were largely during the Cold War, a time when threats to the United States national security were real, especially to the men and women serving in uniform, the press release added. Overall, about 1,600 U.S. service members were killed or wounded in hostile operations during periods that were not previously recognized as time of war by the federal government.

“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing to do and it is long overdue,” 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.’”

Reistad pointed out that existing American Legion membership applications are in the process of being updated, but can still be used. He recommends 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.

The larger pool of veterans now eligible for the American Legion will also open the door for their family members to eligibility in the Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary.

Anyone with questions on eligibility in the American Legion may contact Pera at (585) 755-8658 or Post 529 at (585) 638-8869.

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