By Mandy Coriston
The American Legion is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and a new law may provide the international veterans’ organization with a much-needed membership boost. The Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service (LEGION) Act, a bipartisan bill to change the dates of wartime service, was signed on July 30, 2019.
The law will open up membership eligibility in the American Legion to approximately six million veterans who were previously ineligible to join. Prior to the LEGION Act, federal law considered all wartime dates to be separate conflicts, which meant that membership eligibility in the American Legion was confined to servicemen and women who served during those seven periods of war.
The new law declares that America has had two modern eras of war, WWI from 1917-1918, and from Dec 7, 1941 (the bombing of Pearl Harbor) to the present, where the military is still in active combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. By declaring that the country has been in a state of war since 1941, eligibility for membership in the American Legion will now include all honorably discharged or active duty military who have served since the United States entered WWII. All other membership criteria will remain the same. Locally, members of Sussex County’s American Legion posts are glad to see the passage of the bill and are look forward to welcoming new members. Musconetcong American Legion Post 278 of Stanhope Post Commander Frank Kennedy said they’ve been waiting a long time for this expansion.
“This is a great thing that Congress and the president did with signing this law,” Kennedy said, “It gives all veterans equality to join the Legion. We’d love to have as many new members as we can get.”
Kennedy said his post will be soon be receiving updated membership forms from the national headquarters, but in the meantime, a temporary application is available. Kennedy and fellow officials from Post 278 will be debuting the forms at the Vets Fest for Operation Chillout to be held 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Vasa Park, this coming Saturday, Aug 10. Forms are also available at the post in Stanhope. Veterans must present a DD214 Certificate of Discharge or active duty military ID to join.
The American Legion was founded as a service organization after World War I, and has nearly three million active members at 15,000 posts around the globe. Many posts also have an Honor Guard, an Auxiliary, a Legion Riders motorcycle club, and offer Sons of the Legion membership. Information on the organization can be found at www.legion.org.
Find a Sussex County American Legion Post:
Branchville Post 157 325 Rt. 206S, Branchville 973-948-4550
Franklin Post 132 1 Legion Pl, Franklin 973-209-4211
Newton Post 86 20 Yates Ave., Newton 973-383-2386
Stanhope Post 278 119 Rt. 183, Stanhope 973-347-5558
Sussex Post 213 915 Rt. 23N, Sussex 973-875-3551