American Legion moves to open up membership eligibility
Photo by Lucas Carter/The American Legion

American Legion moves to open up membership eligibility

Membership eligibility in The American Legion is determined by Congress through the establishment of specific dates of declared hostilities in which U.S. military personnel were activated. Since its founding in 1919, membership in The American Legion has been open to veterans of World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Lebanon/Grenada, Panama and Gulf War/War on Terrorism.

There are at least 12 known combat operations that required an activated military personnel, such as the Cold War, Libyan Conflict and Persian Gulf Conflicts, and resulted in about 1,600 U.S. military men and women casualties. However, because these operations are unrecognized by the U.S. government as a period of war, those who served during these timeframes are not eligible for membership in The American Legion.

The American Legion’s National Executive Committee passed a resolution during its annual Fall Meetings in Indianapolis Oct. 17 to change that.

Resolution No. 1, "Unrecognized armed hostilities recognition," calls on Congress to declare that the United States has been continuously engaged in a state of war from December 7, 1941 to present, and for Congress to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to qualify a wartime veteran as any military service personnel who served honorably under Title 10 for at least one day from December 7, 1941 to present.

Following the passing of Resolution No. 1, the NEC adopted Resolution No. 2, "Unrecognized armed hostilities membership date change," which will change membership dates for The American Legion. This resolution will only be put in motion once the actions of Resolution No. 1 are approved by Congress. Once approved, membership in The American Legion will be open to the following war periods: April 6, 1917 to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 to the date of cessation of armed hostilities as determined by the U.S. government.

The American Legion believes that membership in the organization should be extended to all U.S. military personnel who served on active duty during the hostile events that are not seen as a period of war.