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New membership rules for American legion passed by congress this past year could increase the membership of the national American Legion organization by several million, according to www.legion.org.

Due to the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act (LEGION), Congress expanded the current eligibility period to cover Dec. 7, 1941 to the present and includes the current war campaigns. There were seven declared war periods previously. Now, there are two including the current war period dating back to World War II and another war era covering World War I. Congress has reduced the number of eligibility periods from seven to two. No other restrictions are changed.

The new change means that veterans that were honorably discharged but whose service did not fall into the previous defined war eras may now join The American Legion immediately.

The American Legion’s founding fathers believed, “a veteran is a veteran,” a truism that has been held throughout the organization’s service. Some veterans were ineligible to join because of the war eras that were defined by Congress. The recent bill passage and president’s signature changed that.

 All current active duty military are eligible for membership. If a person did not retire from the military but was on active duty during one of the qualifying time periods, they are eligible as long as they have served at least one day of federal active duty during any qualifying period. 

 Location of active duty service is not a consideration for membership, therefore veterans that served during one of the qualifying periods but was never in a combat zone are still eligible for membership.

 If currently in the National Guard or Reserve and activated under Title 10 orders during one of the qualifying time period, they are eligible for membership. Title 10 orders are issued by the Secretary of Defense and therefore are federal orders. However, this is not the case for a National Guard unit activated for crowd control under Title 32 orders during one of the qualifying periods. Title 32 orders are issued under a governor’s authority, whereas Title 10 orders are issued from the Secretary of Defense.

 A current cadet at one of the U.S. Military Academies is eligible for membership. The American Legion has considered service in the military academies as eligible for membership since WWI.

 Per National Constitution and By-laws, no form or class of membership is authorized except regular active or paid up for life.

A veteran that served their entire military career in the National Guard or Reserves and only has a DD214 from their active duty for training during one of the qualifying dates. In the mid-60s, all basic training and occupational training schools were considered federal active duty service.

 If a veteran served active duty as a SPAR, WAC, WASP, or WAVES during the one of the qualifying periods, they are eligible as well.  Even though women served separately than men, their service is equal.

More information about eligibility can be found at www.legion.org. Eligible members may sign up at www.legion.org/join.

Katelyn Lawson may be reached at klawson@tullahomanews.com.

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