YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: It’s time that those serving in the U.S. military during peacetime qualify for the American Legion, says the commander of the Hillsdale post, who is conducting a petition drive aimed at convincing the parent organization to revise membership qualifications that were adopted after “the war to end all wars.”
“Even during war the majority of our military never set boots on foreign soil yet still played a crucial support role,” wrote American Legion Post 162 Commander Zoltan Horvath, who is doing his part to help get 250,000 signatures on the online petition.
“We created a petition because we care deeply about every veteran’s rights and needs,” he said. “This is very important cause that will not let any veteran be made insignificant or unappreciated.”
“In a time when it is getting exponentially more difficult to bring in new members, we are sorely losing members through attrition and as a consequence, local community posts,” the petition says. “It is just and timely to recognize on parity the millions of service men and women who have served outside the American Legions antiquated membership requirements.”
These include members of the Women’s Auxiliary and The Sons of The Legion, whose service “was just as vital to the safety of our great land as was a war time military,” the “Letter of Redress” says.
“I get calls all the time from very disappointed vets who are turned away because of the dates needed to participate,” said Robert Paoli of Ridgewood. “They are as patriotic and willing to be involved as any other qualified veteran.”
“I’ve been arguing this point for years,” added Richard Gato of Toms River. “When you came on board, there was never a guarantee where you were serving. Ask the Reservists and National Guard. The qualifications should simply be that you served your country honorably.”
Or as Mahwah’s Nancy Nielsen, president of the local auxiliary, put it: “A Veteran is a Veteran no matter when he or she served.”
The American Legion has more than 2.4 million members with 14,000 posts worldwide.
“Our aid and support goes forward without caveats predicated on whether or not [veterans] have honorably served our country during time of war or served our country in time of peace,” the petition says. “All have written and signed that blank check to America; all served and paid the price of and for freedom as was required of us at the time. We are all American veterans.
“With our 93rd birthday approaching it is well past the time that we, The American Legion, open our doors and membership to these men and women who are worthy enough to be aided and helped by us, but through legislation still barred from formally joining our organization based on principals and rules drafted to accommodate veterans who served in the war to end all wars.”
Horvath said the petition will be forward “for action, ratification and resolution” to The National American Legion Headquarters, as well as to all members of the U.S. Congress.
Signeess already include Birdie (Bo) Anders of Boulder, CO, who said: “We are all brothers and sisters who stepped up, be it via a draft or volunteer, peace or war. All have had a hand in protecting our America. And all should be allowed to stand together, and join together.”
FOR MORE INFO, OR TO SIGN: OPEN MEMBERSHIP TO THE AMERICAN LEGION
According to the Legion’s web site, eligibility is open to military members “assigned to active duty at some time during any of the following periods”:
WWI: Apr. 6, 1917 — Nov. 11, 1918
U.S. MERCHANT MARINES : Dec. 7,1941 — Aug. 15, 1945
: Dec. 7, 1941 — Dec. 31,1946
KOREA : June 25,1950 — Jan. 31,1955
VIETNAM : Feb. 28,1961 — May 7,1975
: Aug. 24,1982 — July 31,1984
PANAMA CANAL : Dec. 20,1989 — Jan. 31,1990
PERSIAN GULF : From Aug. 2, 1990 — date of an official announcement of cessation of hostilities in the Persian Gulf Operation Enduring Freedom and War on Terrorism
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