Dear Madam or Sir,
I am a veteran who served on active duty from 23 March, 1976 to 22 March, 1980. This does not place me in one of the wartime periods that would qualify me for membership in The American Legion. I can see where “wartime” service would be relevant for membership in service organizations such as the VFW or the DAV, but why do my dates of service disqualify me for Legion membership?
Needless to say, this policy makes me and others feel as if our service to the country is not recognized and we are relegated to “non-veteran” status. This disappoints me for, as we all know, once you enter the U.S. military you are signing over your life to service anywhere and anytime you are needed.
As a side note: to say there was no military activity worthy of Legion membership during my active duty time is ridiculous. This was the time of the Iranian hostage crisis and the failed “Operation Eagle Claw” attempt to free the hostages. In addition, my entire squadron was deployed to South Korea as a result of a DMZ incident with North Korea. Peace time? I think not!
It is surprising that I qualify for veteran preference status on federal and state job applications but am not recognized by an organization that professes to be an advocate for veterans. I am in a time of my life and career where I would like to be of service to The American Legion but I refuse to be an auxiliary member with no veteran status.
I guess that “veteran status” is awarded to only “real” U.S. veterans.
Post Falls, Idaho
According to the Legion charter, dating back to 1919 and authorized by Congress, The American Legion is a veterans’ service organization whose membership comprises "wartime veterans".
However, The American Legion has no control over what is actually considered wartime service. That is determined solely by Congress.
With regard to your closing comment, this sentiment has been advanced by others, as well. This gives me the opportunity to expound a bit about “veteran status” as we view it, even though my presentation does not relate directly to your original question. At least you will know where The American Legion’s “heart” is even if Congress controls our membership policy.
Legion leadership recently adopted resolution calling for expansion of the definition of “veteran status” with regard to members of the National Guard and Reserve components: archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2482/2013S010.pdf?sequence=1
The Legion also supports a bill introduced on Capitol Hill by Rep. Tim Walz, a longtime military veteran himself. Walz's proposed legislation, H.R. 679, is called the "Honor Amercia's Guard-Reserve Retirees Act." It falls in line with our rsolution. The text of the bill can be read here: www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr679
My point is, to us a “veteran is a veteran is a veteran.” The mandated “180 days of active duty service” qualifier is only with regard to the award of benefits. It does not define who is or who is not a veteran of military service. This point confuses some people, however. For instance, I have heard veterans claim, “You're not a veteran in the view of the government even if you serve 30 years as a drilling reservist or Guardsman and retire.” Well, that is simply incorrect. Consider the Webster’s Dictionary definition of the word “veteran” as it relates to military service. Webster’s says a veteran is “a former member of the armed forces.” As far as we are concerned, that’s it. In effect, the U.S. government, Congress aside, concurs.
To prove that point, let’s talk about the award of benefits. As you mention, Rick, your service, while not considered "wartime service" by Congress, still qualifies you for veteran preference and hiring status in the federal government. And, as far as military and veteran honors are concerned, the law allows military veterans in civilian clothes to salute the U.S. flag while it is being raised or lowered. That law does not apply only to certain former members of the armed forces, but by its lack of restrictive language, ALL former members of the armed forces. Again, “a veteran is a veteran is a veteran”.
While your remarks did not specifically call for this lengthy and a bit off-topic response, Rick, I thought it was important to let you and all “real” veterans know what we believe it means to have earned the distinguished title of Veteran. You have certainly earned it, Rick.