Expanded eligibility could boost American Legion membership
LEWISBURG — Eligibility for full membership in the American Legion was recently expanded to include veterans like William Wagner.
An Army veteran, Wagner served stateside at Fort Meade, Md. and overseas in Pusan, Korea. Because his time of service, October 1976 to October 1979, was a time without declared military action he was not eligible for full membership until recently.
That changed, said Richard Chalmers, 18th District commander and adjutant of Lewisburg American Legion Post 182, thanks to the passage of the LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service).
“For years and years and years, legionnaires like myself have tried to get Congress to change the rules,” Chalmers said. “We were excluding veterans who were clearly veterans, but they couldn’t join because our Congressional charter said ‘for periods of a time of war.’”
Parameters such as from the end of World War II to US military involvement in Korea were put in place which restricted membership.
However, the LEGION Act defines Dec. 7, 1941, to the present day as a time of war or until Congress determines the United States is no longer at war.
“It was always unpleasant,” Chalmers recalled. “Somebody would come in and say, ‘I am a veteran.’ We’d say you are a veteran, but you can’t join the Legion because we have these Congressional rules.”
Wagner had been a member of the Sons of the American Legion, thanks to his dad’s service in Korea,
“I know they have been fighting for it for years,” he said of the LEGION Act. “I always thought that it was unfair. I can’t help that I was part of the military in a non-conflict era.”
Wagner has now applied for full membership which allows voting on post affairs by active members.
“There is a benefit in that we get increased membership,” Chalmers said. “Not only in the Legion but people who were otherwise not eligible to join the Sons of the American Legion because their parents were excluded in that period. Now they can join.”
Expanded eligibility also applies to the American Legion Auxiliary.
Chalmers encouraged newly eligible members to contact the American Legion post in their community and join.
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at email@example.com.