Oct. 5, 2019 — The veteran community is continuing to celebrate the June 30 signing of a bill by President Donald Trump that will allow for more veterans, and their families, to be recognized for their time in service.
The major change instituted by the LEGION (Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service) Act will be in the requirements needed to join the American Legion, which was chartered and incorporated in 1919 as a patriotic veteran’s organization devoted to helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest wartime veteran’s service organization and is committed to mentoring youth and to sponsorship of a wide array of support programs in local communities.
Nationally, the American Legion advocates for patriotism, honor, strong national security and continued support for veterans. The Legion is also a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with a history of legislative participation. That participation was the driving force behind the successful passage of the LEGION Act.
The bill was supported by the Legion as well as other veterans groups, and was the end result of a process that recognized the need to acknowledge the service of those that served during a time in which war was not declared, or during peacetime.
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. This will include more than 1,600 individuals who died when a conflict had not been officially declared.
“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue,” American Legion 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.’”
Locally, this change was good news for Mike Nielsen, Commander of American Legion, Francis M Yost, Post 59 in Florence.
“President Trump signed the LEGION Act a couple of months ago and they’ve eliminated the qualifying dates for membership in the Legion,” Nielsen said. “It used to just be service during wartimes, declared wars and declared conflicts. There were a lot of spaces in between when people served that did not qualify. Over the years, I’ve had people call and ask if they could join and I had to tell them I’m sorry, you didn’t serve during wartime. This lets everybody know that if you were in the military and you served honorably, even for one day, you are now eligible to become a member of the American Legion.”
Another aspect of the passage and signing of the LEGION Act was the support for the bill expressed by members of Congress, according to Reistad.
“In an era of partisan gridlock, Republicans and Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly recognized the importance of allowing thousands of honorable but previously ineligible veterans the right to join the largest and most influential veteran’s organization in the country,” he said.
Meetings of American Legion Post 59 are held the fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning at 5 p.m. with a potluck dinner, followed at 6 p.m. by the regular meeting.
All are welcome at the Al Stapleton/DAV Hall at 21st and Pine streets in Florence.