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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.

Question:

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. 

Thank you,

Rick R.

Post Falls, Idaho

Answer:

Dear Rick.

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.  

Lou

 

audi miranda

November 12, 2013 - 6:42pm

Be proud to be a veteran and walk tall. It's a distinction than can never be taken away from you and Veterans day is our day to be reminded that at least we were willing to serve our country. I am a Vietnam Veteran and I missed the cut-off date by 21 days, I was not eligible for medical benefits or educational benefits and very discouraged. However, in 1969 they reinstated the education benefits, and although older I enrolled at a University and earned my BA and MPA. I got accepted into their doctoral program but ran out of benefits. In the late 70's I was instrumental in getting legislation to give all veterans a tax exemption and changing the date of eligibility to correspond with the federal legislation. Only veterans born in that state and that served within their own establish dates of eligibility were eligible for tax exemption. It past successfully and helped many veterans within their dates of eligibility. Somehow my intent of having the state's date of eligibility correspond with the federal dates got left out in the legislative process. Whether it was deliberate or unintentional I will never know. It took another 10 years before we were able to pass legislation that enabled me to become eligible to get a tax exemption. It was also during this period that Congress expand the Vietnam conflict to the Vietnam Era and I was eligible to join the American Legion. That's 24 years before a became a Legionnaire. The point is that we cannot stop until we get all veterans to become eligible to join the American Legion. We need to change the wartime mentality and realize that as long as we need to maintain a defense, a military all veterans should become eligible. It should not matter in what capacity we served our country or what period we were willing to serve. That is true Americanism. The leadership in the American Legion has to be willing to make changes to eliminate discrimination against veterans. Hang in there and I hope one day you can join this fine organization...Don't feel to badly some friends don't think I am a veteran because I did not carry a rifle. So be it, my MOS was just as important, and I know I served and I am proud that I did and I glad I could.

Bill McBride Viet Nam Veteran

November 13, 2013 - 7:48am

I served in in the Regular Air Force from 1969 to 1973 then in the Air National Guard from 1973 to 2005.I am a Life Member of the American Legion and the VFW.

I have heard all of the excuses about how the American Legion is the only true War Era Veteran's Organization in the World and how it would lose it's CLOUT with Congress if the war Era dates were opened up.
Expanding these dates gets brought up almost every year at National American Legion Convention and is never approved.
The VFW has opened the dates up to all Korean War Veterans. I see nothing wrong with that. I also see nothing wrong with Congress recognizing the entire COLD WAR as an ERA that makes any Veteran eligible for American Legion Membership Eligibility.

Here's what I do have a problem with -
I am the Membership Chair at my Legion Post. I am the one that has to tell my fellow Veterans that their Honorable Service does not meet War Era Criteria and that they are not welcome in my Post.
HOWEVER The American Legion recognizes an organization that that have NEVER served a single day of Military Service. Every day these people enter our Posts as bonifide members. They use our Lounge and our facilities and have all of the Privileges that our Legionnaires have. Yes I am talking about the Sons of the American Legion. Most of these men have never seen a day of Military Service. They are there in our Posts because of their fathers or grandfathers. They pay the same price for their drinks that Legionnaires do and if you look at the American Legion discount Benefits package for the Legionnaires and the Sons they are Identical. In most Legion Posts the SONS DUES are considerably less than Legionnaire dues. Some Sons dues are 1/2 of what the Legionnaires pay. I don't understand that one? Theirs should be at least equal to or MORE than ours. for the Most part the SONS are not boys under 21 years of age. They are MEN that are looking for a Place the HANG OUT. There are not many Juniors in that organization.

I think that the American Legion and Congress should address the resolutions that would recognize at least the Cold War Vets so that we can welcome them to our Posts.
Come on!!!!!!!!!!!!
The National Guard needs just one day of eligibility but a Veteran that served 5 years missed the dates!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Are you Kidding?
Let's get the Cold War Guys on Board.

Welcome Hewett

August 31, 2014 - 11:32am

You hit the nail right on the head.That`s why I never joined the VFW or American Legion they pick who they want. These Cold War Vets were ready to put themselves in harms way for America and this is what they get for it NOTHING.Sham on these organizations for not nonrecognition of them .

Gary M. Smith

November 12, 2013 - 7:25pm

Rick R. - this does not prevent you from contacting your House and Senate representatives and ask them to sponsor a Bill to change the Charter of The American Legion. I'm sure you would get a great many supporters.

Terry Towns, MSgt, USAF, Retired

November 12, 2013 - 7:46pm

Have you checked into the Korean Service Medal? The following was released by the DoD in February 2004.

""""""The Defense Department announced today the creation of theKorean Defense Service Medal (KDSM). The KDSM is a service medal to give special recognition for the sacrifices and contributions made by members of the U.S. armed forces who have served or are serving in the Republic of Korea.
Public Law 107-314 legislated the creation of a new medal to recognize military service in the Republic of Korea and the surrounding waters.
Members of the armed forces authorized the KDSM must have served in support of the defense of the Republic of Korea. The area of eligibility encompasses all land area of the Republic of Korea, and the contiguous water out to 12 nautical miles, and all air spaces above the land and water areas.

The KDSM period of eligibility is July 28, 1954, to a future date to be determined by the secretary of defense.

Servicemembers must have been assigned, attached, or mobilized to units operating in the area of eligibility and have been physically deployed in the area of eligibility for 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days or meet one of the following criteria:
Be engaged in actual combat during an armed engagement, regardless of the time in the area of eligibility.
Is wounded or injured in the line of duty and requires medical evacuation from the area of eligibility.
While participating as a regularly assigned air crewmember flying sorties into, out of, within, or over the area of eligibility in support of military operations. Each day that one or more sorties are flown in accordance with these criteria shall count as one day toward the 30 or 60-day requirement.
Personnel who serve in operations and exercises conducted in the area of eligibility are considered eligible for the award as long as the basic time criteria is met. Due to the extensive time period for KDSM eligibility, the nonconsecutive service period for eligibility remains cumulative throughout the entire period.
The KDSM may be awarded posthumously, and only one award of the KDSM is authorized for any individual.

Each military department will prescribe appropriate regulations for administrative processing, awarding and wearing of the KDSM and ribbon for their servicemembers, to include application procedures for veterans, retirees, and next-of-kin.

More than 40,000 members of the U.S. armed forces have served in the Republic of Korea or the waters adjacent thereto each year since the signing of the cease-fire agreement in July 1953, which established the Demilitarized Zone. For more than 50 years, U.S. Armed Forces efforts to deter and defend the Korean Peninsula have helped maintain democracy and preserve the indomitable spirit of freedom."""""""

If you have received a campaign medal for overseas service; have served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea; or have ever received hostile fire or imminent danger pay, then you're eligible to join the ranks of the VFW.
Maybe congress should review the criteria that makes someone eligible for the VFW but not the American Legion!! Sorry this is so long

Tom Wright, NCAL Post 167

November 13, 2013 - 9:39am

If you were a member of the armed forces at any time from the Japanese surrender in 1945 'til the breakup of the USSR, you were part of the cold war. You were at risk of being involved in active combat everyday you served. Why should you be denied membership?

Bill McBride

November 20, 2013 - 8:08am

ELIGIBILITY DATES - A member or a former member the United States Armed Forces must have one day of Federal Active Duty within these dates to be allowed to join the American Legion. "Tweeners" are not eligible. Honorable conditions do apply.

WORLD WAR I APRIL 6, 1917 to
NOVEMBER 11, 1918

WORLD WAR II DECEMBER 7, 1941 to
DECEMBER 31, 1946

U.S. MERCHANT DECEMBER 7, 1941 to
MARINES in WWII* AUGUST 15, 1945

KOREAN WAR JUNE 25, 1950 to
JANUARY 31, 1955

VIETNAM WAR FEBRUARY 28, 1961 to
MAY 7, 1975

LEBANON & AUGUST 24, 1982 to
GRENADA WAR JULY 31, 1984

PANAMA WAR DECEMBER 20, 1989 to
JANUARY 31, 1990

PERSIAN GULF/ AUGUST 2, 1990 –
WAR ON TERRORISM Cessation of hostilities as determined by US Government

*Merchant Marines eligible only if attached for active duty service with the Coast Guard, Army or Navy during dates indicated.

aav amphibs

October 24, 2014 - 7:23pm

Here is what I would do considering that these post are all dying off. Make ALL COLD WAR VETERANS eligible for American Legion and the VFW. Regardless of deployed status or not. It's crazy. They can have their own "COMBAT CLUB" within their post. For now, support all organizations and keep them alive. It's time to "GROW UP" American Legion and VFW.

Greg,life member post 328

November 16, 2013 - 12:40pm

Not all squadrons of the s.a.l.s are like those described above. They are supportive of all legion programs. The group at my post takes motorized wheel chairs that are donated and refurbishes them. They are then loaned out to any needy vet at no cost. They have about 50 of them out there with another 20 or so in reserve or being worked on to be lent. They raise there own funds for this project and the post gets the credit. They also arrange for approximately 2,000,000 lbs. of food donations each year. I am proud to also be life member of them . Not all are there to take advantage of the legion.

Bob Connor

May 28, 2014 - 3:30pm

As it is now the dates for vietnam service is 1964 to 1975. If you were in country the start date is 1961. You show the 1961 date for eligibility in the AL. Please explain. Also is there any legislation to make te 1961 date all inclusive?

aav amphibs

October 24, 2014 - 7:13pm

I was reading on the above article about The American Legion recently enacting a resolution for granting Reservist veteran status. I am in this boat. I am also a American Legion qualified, 1982-83 active duty dates during Beirut dates of eligibility.
I can't express how many times I have looked at my honorable discharge only to feel that I never served. Or is it that the Veterans Administration had made me feel this way for years? I could never understand why reservist not called to active duty were never classified as veterans. Especially for benefits purposes. I always thought when I joined, that you sign a contract, you fulfill the contract and when you get your honorable discharge, you are an automatic veteran. As a reservist with an honorable discharge, I am not entitled for...

A VA Home Loan
Burial in a VA cemetery
No job placement nor assistance
No educational benefits
No VA healthcare benefits

It is as though I have never served in the military. What is the motivation aside having signed a contract to continue going to "Drill" weekends, when my honorable discharge is just as worthless as a "LESSER" kind of discharge? All based on active duty requirements. I feel robbed. Grant it, I signed the contract, but I was young and dumb, probably didn't know what I was getting into. Must I/We pay for the rest of our lives with zero veteran status.
I doubt this resolution will ever be taken at face value. I will die before any of this ever comes to light. I am sure someone coming from Iraq/Afghanistan could care less about my status, however, I was in the Persian Gulf as a civilian working on a military contract when they were wearing diapers. Again, been out since 1985, still disgruntled after 30 years of having "Whale shit" status. I've even looked at trying to gain status for military contract performed during Persian Gulf, but would need a lot more proof and testimony, virtually impossible to do and no support. (A lot of WWII civilians got granted VA status including Merchant Marines that weren't even in the military.)
I really do thank the American Legion for trying to provide veteran status for reservist. I can't believe I read this. I often wonder how many guys in my boat feel this way or am I the only one. It's embarrassing to bring up because, I am ashamed to even mention I was a reservist because of its non-veteran status when I know deep in my heart I really am a veteran.

LARRY WARNELL

November 9, 2014 - 12:12am

I have a person tell me he signed up for national guard 1962 spent 30 days in boot camp was honorably discharged according to his dd214
he is now a legion member how is that possible

Mike Rogers

November 10, 2014 - 5:34pm

Rick - I served in the USAF 76 to 80 and feel exactly the same as you. My time in the service changed my life and gave me the opportunity to pursue and obtain a college education. I am extremely proud of my time served and only wish congress felt the same.

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