In a legislative victory for The American Legion, President Donald Trump signed the Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act on July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941. The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. service members who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war.
The LEGION Act also opens the door for approximately 6 million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible, according to a press release.
“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue,” the former National Commander Brett Reistad said. “The families of those who were killed or wounded during these wartime acts should take pride in knowing that we recognize their sacrifice and service. Moreover, we are proud to welcome any of the 6 million living veterans from the previously unrecognized periods into our organization and call them Legionnaires.”
Now that the legislation has been signed, The American Legion’s eligibility criteria immediately changes from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 to a time later determined by the federal government. No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed.
“We certainly can benefit from this legislation from a boost in member eligibility standpoint,” said 3rd District Commander Douglas Millison. “... I feel we do offer benefits to our members, but we also fight legislatively for every veteran regardless of membership status to protect their earned benefits whether they are a member or not.”
Millison is part of the Bennett & Dennis Herrick Memorial American Legion Post No. 626 in Gladstone.
During the recent American Legion National Convention in Indianapolis Indiana, Admiral Charles Ray, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, thanked the Legion for their donation of $1 million, which temporarily supported 3,100 USCG families during the government shutdown. The American Legion is currently lobbying to change the mechanism for paying the Coast Guard to ensure another shutdown will not do the same damage again.
“That’s what we do and that’s why veterans who fell out of our previous date ranges were so disappointed in not being able to be part of our organization,” said Millison. “Since then, veterans who had previously been denied membership have come back to their local posts asking for an application. Our first Legion Act applicant in Post 626 was Gary Lint, an Air Force veteran whose service fell squarely between the Korean and Vietnam wars.”
During that time, 1955 to 1960, naval units evacuated Tachen Island; Marines evacuated Alexandria, Egypt; Marines landed in Lebanon; advisers were arriving in Vietnam; and more Marines arrived in the Caribbean after the Cuban revolution.
“And our man Gary Lint was in Strategic Air Command, flying ready reaction cover flights from Mountain Home, Idaho, never knowing when their flight would be called to go over. American military personnel were putting their safety, even their lives, at risk constantly, not just during periods of declared war. We welcome Gary and any other eligible veteran or service member,” Millison said.