Good news for Legion and vets

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, February 18, 2020

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If you’re a veteran of the United States armed forces, you are now eligible to join the American Legion.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t always that way.

As a congressionally chartered veterans’ service organization, the American Legion has been limited to accepting only veterans who had served during one of six federally designated eras that roughly coincided with periods of war. These dated back to America’s declaration of war on Germany during World War I.

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But last year, in a rare show of bipartisanship and common sense, politicians in our nation’s capital acknowledged that all veterans took the same oath to protect and defend our country, regardless of whether they ended up serving during one of those wartime periods. The Legion Act became law in July of last year, expanding eligibility for potential new American Legion members to those who served from Dec. 7, 1941, to the present time. If there ever comes an end to that period, it will be determined by the federal government.

What that means is that if you’re a veteran who served honorably since the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, you can now be an American Legion member. The eligibility period also technically still includes April 6, 1917 to Nov. 11, 1918.

The new 4th District Commander for the Virginia Department of the American Legion, Joseph Garlitz, is encouraging veterans to join now, whether they are newly eligible or simply have been putting it off. Garlitz is in charge of 14 American Legion posts in the region, and he said veterans are excited. One new member, who had previously been ineligible, showed up at the very next meeting after the bill became law with his application and dues in hand.

The American Legion does great work to help fellow veterans as well as the community at large. We salute our two American Legion posts in Suffolk — Post 57 and Post 88 — and wish them many new members.