The American Legion’s standards of eligibility have changed, opening arms to more military veterans.
Under the new law, any honorably discharged veteran who has served since Dec. 7, 1941, may join the American Legion, meaning military veterans who served what were previously considered periods of peacetime between wars are now eligible for membership.
Before the change, members of the congressionally chartered organization had to have served on active duty during wartime in one of seven combat periods: World War I, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Lebanon and Granada, Panama and Gulf War/War on Terror. The Senate Bill 504, the LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act) was sponsored by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and became law July 30.
Sinema said many troops served in “lesser” conflicts between the accepted periods, including 1,600 troops killed. She said there are at least 12 eras that resulted in military casualties that have not been recognized as “periods of war” by the U.S. government.
“Expanding Legion membership improves services for veterans across Arizona and honors our brave service members killed or injured during periods of unrecognized war,” Sinema said in a statement. “Our bill shows what’s possible when we stay focused on getting things done that matter.”
Larry Crane, Honor Guard commander of Legion Post 133 in Maricopa, said he hoped the change would bring more members. The post currently has about 135 members while Maricopa’s veterans comprise about 10 percent of its population.
Membership in traditional veterans service organizations has declined over the past several decades as members age and pass away, and veterans of recent conflicts have sought out other gropus or social organizations. This year, however, Veterans of Foreign Wars reversed that trend, adding nearly 25,000 new members, according to VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. While the VFW has different origins and different membership requirements from the American Legion, the changes to the American Legion’s eligibility may bolster its ranks as well.
American Legion Post 133 invites all eligible veterans to join the post to help in the many activities it supports locally. Those interested may do so online or by contacting Haven Hull, the adjutant, at 520-208-6434. The post meets on the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Maricopa Veterans Center on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.