American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster recently reaffirmed the Legion's opposition to a proposed casino near the Gettysburg battlefield.
"As a free nation, I respect the right of people to disagree but there is a misperception among some that because a few local veterans support the casino then The American Legion supports it," Foster said . "Gettysburg was a decisive and major battle in the War Between the States. Those who died there hailed from all the existing states of the Union and Confederacy. Saying that protecting the memory of these heroes is a ‘local issue' is like calling the Civil War a ‘local disturbance.' We realize that there is a lot of money backing the casino, but honor is not for sale."
Although the proposal advanced by a Gettysburg business developer would place the casino a half-mile from the 6,000-acre Gettysburg National Military Park, preservationists point out that the site would be next to where Union Cavalry advanced toward the South Cavalry field - a substantial scene of the fighting.
Foster emphasized that The American Legion is sympathetic to economic hardships that have affected the area. "We are not ‘anti-casino,' we are ‘pro-veteran,' Foster said. "We simply believe it should be built further away from the field that Abraham Lincoln called ‘consecrated' ground. There are other locations in the state that want to host the facility. We hope that officials see the importance of protecting the sanctity of that special place in American history."
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hopes to reach a decision before the end of the year after a series of public meetings. Foster said that most of the feedback that his organization has received from veterans outside the Gettysburg area has been overwhelmingly supportive of The American Legion's position.
The American Legion Department of Pennsylvania, the Civil War Preservation Trust, Veterans for Gettysburg, Gov. Ed Rendell and historian Ken Burns also oppose building the casino near the battlefield.