Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Letter to the National Commander of the American Legion

To the National Commander:  Dear Commander, I am writing to suggest that the time has come, and in fact is way past due, to change the eligibility requirements of the Legion to permit all of those who have served in the "all volunteer" armed forces to join, even if their service did not fall within the dates currently specified in your by-laws.  These men and women stepped up and joined the armed forces on their own accord, without any threat of being drafted.  They have served in the highest traditions of the military, following orders and going wherever they were needed; had they been ordered into battle they would have gone without complaint because that was their job - it's what they signed up to do.  So to disrespect the service of these brave and loyal men and women just because the time of their service did not coincide with some specified time of war is wrong.  The American Legion cannot claim to represent all veterans if it excludes those who volunteered to serve in a time of peace but stood ready to serve in a time of war. The all-voluntary military forces that have defended our country since the end of the draft could not have stood up without them, and they are brothers and sisters in arms in every possible respect, and they fully deserve the opportunity to join the Legion and continue their comradeship with fellow veterans from other eras.  Will you honor these brave men and women by changing your eligibility requirements to permit them to join, or will you continue to regard them as “second-class” veterans because their time of service happened to correspond with a brief period in our history when we were not at war with someone?
United States Army, 6/17/1968 - 6/07/1971

I wrote this due to the recent experience of a friend of mine who was in the  "peace time" Army during the late 1970s.  He recently applied for membership at the local Legion hall and discovered he is not eligible for membership.  To say that he was upset - and pissed off - would be a gross understatement.  This is a man who volunteered to serve his country; he was in the Military Police and served in Germany, which at the time was probably a far more dangerous place for GIs then it was when I was there 10 years earlier - and I'm certain that his job was a lot more dangerous than mine was.  But I'm eligible to join the Legion and he's not?  That's just ridiculous.

And don't get me started about benefits from the VA (but come to think of it, I haven't written to our Congressional delegation in a while).

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