WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, July 30, President Trump signed Senate Bill S. 504 into law. The bill, known as the LEGION act (Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service) was sponsored by Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
The bill, now law, expands opportunities for membership in the American Legion.
Prior to Tuesday’s signing, membership in the American Legion was congressionally chartered and limited by that charter to veterans who served during World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Lebanon/Grenada, Panama and the Gulf War/War on Terrorism.
Outside of those time periods, there have been at least 12 combat operations that required military activation that included the Cold War, and the Libyan and Persian Gulf Conflicts.
These operations resulted in the deaths of some 1,600 military men and women.
Since these operations were not recognized by the U.S. government as periods of war, the men and women who served within those time frames were not eligible to become members of the American Legion.
With the signing of the LEGION Act into law, membership in the American Legion is now limited to two periods: World War I and continuing from Dec. 7, 1941 until it is determined the U.S. is no longer in a state of war.
All military veterans who served at least one day of active service and were honorably discharged are now eligible for membership in the American Legion.
After introducing S. 504, Sinema noted that the benefits of Legion membership “make a world of difference” to veterans, citing the assistance offered by the organization to U.S. Coast Guard members who worked without pay during the government shutdown early this year.
The LEGION Act was a focus of American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad’s Feb. 27 testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. He called on Congress to take action amending the charter, thereby giving tens of thousands of veterans access to American Legion benefits and programs they are not currently eligible for.
Reistad noted, “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 six million living veterans from the previously unrecognized periods into our organization and call them ‘Legionnaires.”
The Legion, which has nearly 2 million members and nearly 13,000 posts nationwide, assists veterans, military personnel and their families with donations, grants and legislative advocacy on issues ranging from health care to education assistance.
Newly eligible veterans wishing to join the American Legion should contact the adjutants of the Posts in Pacific and Wahkiakum counties: Post 150 in Raymond – Gordon Alshire at 253-732-7077; Post 48 in Ilwaco – Dick Wallace at 360-642-4188; and, Post 111 in Deep River – Nick Nikkila at 360-465-2595.