The American Legion National Executive Committee passed Resolution 1 last October to recognize U.S. military personnel who have pledged their lives to defend the United States, 1,600 of whom were killed or wounded, in military action the federal government has not recognized as wartime.
The purpose of the resolution is purely to give those fallen and wounded, as well as any veteran who served outside federally designated war periods the proper recognition they deserve.
The resolution traces U.S. military history from the end of World War II to the beginning of the Gulf War and identifies no fewer than 12 armed military conflicts involving U.S. troops, ranging from civil wars in Greece and China after World War II to U.S.-involved battles in the Salvadoran Civil War of the 1980s that claimed the lives of no less than 22 American service members.
“It is the purest of American Legion resolutions because it truly honors war heroes who have not previously been acknowledged,” American Legion National Judge Advocate Kevin Bartlett said. “American men and women of the uniformed service branches have been thrust into harm’s way, under government orders, to fight and defend others in so many armed conflicts over the last seven decades that it has been, essentially, continuous. The definition of ‘wartime’ for them was the moment they were given orders to raise their weapons or take cover from enemy fire.”
Bartlett said The American Legion is grateful for the bipartisan Senate Bill 504, the LEGION Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Sen. Thom Thillis, R-N.C. The measure would extend American Legion membership eligibility to all U.S. military personnel and veterans who were honorably discharged since the end of World War II, in addition to war era eligibility dates that have been set by the federal government.
“The American Legion provides critical resources to our veterans, but currently, only veterans who served during formally recognized conflicts can belong to the Legion,” said Sen. Sinema, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. “That restriction leaves out thousands of former American servicemembers who signed up to defend our country. Our legislation rights this wrong and ensures veterans have the opportunity to join The American Legion.”
More important than American Legion membership, Bartlett said, is proper recognition for all American military personnel who have placed their lives on the line – in many instances giving their lives – in defense of the United States and others around the world.
“We certainly appreciate the opportunity this bill presents to add previously denied veterans the opportunity to serve their communities, states and the nation as members of The American Legion. But a greater interest of our organization, as always, is to advance our long-held belief that a veteran is a veteran, no matter where they served during wartime, and it’s pretty hard to dispute that wartime has not been a continuous phenomenon since the end of World War II. It is in respect for all veterans that we applaud Congress for understanding the overdue respect these veterans deserve.”