Legislation introduced to expand Legion membership

Published 2:05 pm Sunday, March 17, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced the LEGION Act, bipartisan legislation that would extend American Legion membership to honorably discharged veterans who served since World War II.

Currently, only veterans who served during periods of declared hostilities are able to join the American Legion. The bipartisan LEGION Act is supported by the American Legion and ensures the thousands of brave American veterans who fought for our country during unrecognized times of war are able to enjoy the full benefits of the American Legion.

“For 100 years, The American Legion has fostered a community for servicemembers and veterans throughout our great nation,” said Senator Tillis. “The bipartisan LEGION Act will expand access to the American Legion to all veterans who served honorably, and I look forward to building support for this commonsense legislation in the Senate.”

Locally, officials of American Legion Post 102 of Ahoskie said they favored the passage of the proposed legislation.

“We support this legislation; we’ve talked about this and feel it needs to be done,” said Post 102 Commander James Hutchinson. “We have a few men around who were in the service during the Cold War. We would welcome them if this legislation is approved.”

Post 102 Adjajunct Johnnie Ray Farmer said the current Legion Constitution prevents military veterans from joining the organization if they did not serve during a declared conflict.

“It’s pretty cut-and-dry on the application to join the Legion, it clearly lists the declared conflicts,” Farmer noted. “Expanding our membership to include all those who served and were honorably discharged is a good thing in my eyes.”

“Nearly 1,600 brave American men and women were killed or wounded since World War II, while defending our nation during times not officially recognized as periods of war by the U.S. government,” American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad said. “These veterans are unable to receive some of the benefits and recognition available to their counterparts who served during official wartime periods. Because The American Legion is congressionally chartered, we are unable to welcome many of these veterans as members of the nation’s largest veterans organization.”

Reistad added it’s very fitting that this proposed legislation comes at the same time of the American Legion celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding.

“This bipartisan legislation will recognize all veterans who served honorably since the start of World War II while also fostering growth within the veteran community. We hope that the American people will encourage all members of Congress to support the LEGION Act. It is an appropriate ‘thank you’ to those who served,” Reistad concluded.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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