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In an important moment for US Veterans, the LEGION Act was signed into law on July 30, 2019, allowing Veterans who have served in previously unrecognized conflicts, including The Cold War, to join the American Legion.
The Act, which was introduced earlier this year by Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), lists 12 conflicts, including the Greek Civil War, the Chinese Civil War, the Cold War, the Lebanon Crisis of 1958, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Dominican Civil War, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the Libyan Conflict, and the events of 1986 when the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin, Germany, was bombed, killing two United States soldiers and wounding 79 other members of the Armed Forces. Veterans of these conflicts and others that have taken place since 1941 will now be eligible to join the American Legion.
Speaking after the signing, National Commander of the American Legion, Brett Reistad, said that "Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue ... 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.’”
Explaining the legal change, the Legion wrote on their website that "Now that the legislation has been signed, The American Legion’s eligibility criteria immediately changes from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 to a time later determined by the federal government. No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed."
The change will particularly make a big difference to the many Americans who have served in the UK and Europe during the Cold War, many of whom have since settled on this side of the pond.
Reistad went on to explain that "The larger pool of veterans now eligible for the American Legion will also open their family members to eligibility in the Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary as well.” He also offered advice to prospective Legionnaires who may be in the process of applying for membership whilst the Legion updates its application process - "I recommend that prospective Legionnaires and recruiters write ‘LEGION Act’ in the eligibility date section of American Legion membership applications if they fall outside the previous war eras".
The signing of the Act is great news for Americans in the UK and Europe who have served their country during important but previously unrecognized conflicts, and a wonderful way to pay tribute to those who have served the US in pursuit of peace and prosperity.
For more information on the Legion Act and the American Legion, visit www.legion.org/membership/246557/legion-act-signed-law, and for more details on the American Legion in London, visit ukpost1.org