When is a war a war? When bullets, bombs, missiles or weapons of mass destruction are aimed at American servicemembers. Size, scope, media coverage – none of it matters when someone is trying to kill you.
The fact is, the United States has been at war since Dec. 7, 1941. Nearly 1,600 American servicemembers have been killed or wounded in hostile operations during periods that were not recognized or declared by the U.S. government as times of war.
Now here’s the rub. The American Legion was chartered by Congress as a “wartime veterans organization.” At the time of our founding in 1919, World War I – then known as the “Great War” – was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.” As we all know, it wasn’t.
For too long, veterans have wondered why only those who served during designated wartime eras could join The American Legion. We mean it when we answer, “It takes an act of Congress.”
On Feb. 14, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act (aka the LEGION Act), S. 504, along with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. A companion measure, H.R. 1641, has been introduced in the House by Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Ben Cline, R-Va.
The LEGION Act would open The American Legion’s membership eligibility dates from Dec. 7, 1941, to a time as yet determined by the U.S. government that we are not at war. If signed into law, this bill would fulfill Resolution No. 1, passed unanimously by the Legion’s National Executive Committee last October in Indianapolis.
Should Congress take action to expand our organization’s charter, hundreds of thousands more veterans would have access to American Legion programs and benefits for which they are currently not eligible.
Again, the LEGION Act recognizes that the United States has been continuously engaged in a state of war since World War II. Whether a veteran served during the Cold War or a hot one, he or she took the same oath to support and defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This legislation is a great way to say “thank you.”
We believe that all veterans who served honorably on federal orders since Dec. 7, 1941, have earned the right to be welcomed into the ranks of The American Legion. They have earned the right to enjoy the camaraderie and privilege of belonging to the nation’s most influential and active veterans service organization. They have earned the right to call themselves Legionnaires.
The American Legion’s founders did not distinguish between those who fought in the trenches of Europe and those stationed in the United States or at sea. They acknowledged that servicemembers went where the government sent them and that they were all part of the war effort.
Encourage your representatives and senators to support the LEGION Act, because all veterans deserve recognition for the risks they faced while in uniform, regardless of when and where they served. Let’s give them the opportunity to join their brothers and sisters in arms in The American Legion.