The American Legion
With President Trump’s signature on the LEGION Act, the extension of the ongoing declared period of war was extended back to Dec. 7, 1941. The congressionally approved act is a way to honor thousands of veterans who were killed or wounded on duty during periods not previously considered a time of war.
“Finally Congress has acknowledged the service and sacrifice of at least 1,600 veterans who died or were wounded in previously undeclared periods of war,” said American Legion National Judge Advocate Kevin Bartlett. “This new law honors the memories of those veterans while allowing other veterans from those previously undeclared eras to receive all the American Legion benefits they have earned through their service.”
The LEGION Act - Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act — also redefines The American Legion’s membership eligibility dates. The eligibility now span from Dec. 7, 1941, until a time when the U.S. is no longer at war, as determined by Congress.
Here are answers to 11 key questions about the new law and what it means for The American Legion.
Question: How does this change the eligibility requirements for The American Legion?
Answer: The only change is that Congress has reduced the number of eligibility periods from seven to two. They are April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941, and continuing. No other restrictions are changed.
Question: What’s the impact on veterans who previously were not eligible for American Legion membership?
Answer: Veterans who were honorably discharged but whose service did not fall into the previous defined war eras may now join The American Legion immediately. To do so, eligible members may sign up at https://www.indianalegion.org/join.
Question: I am among the veterans who were not allowed to join previously, so why do you want me now?
Answer: The American Legion’s founding fathers believed, “a veteran is a veteran,” an axiom that has held true throughout the organization’s more than century of 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.
Question: So how does this differentiate The American Legion from AMVETS?
Answer: The American Legion’s eligibility criteria states that veterans must have served during “wartime.” When Congress decides the U.S. is no longer in a state of war, the Legion’s membership eligibility period will close, while AMVETS will still be open to those who served.
Question: How does this affect the Sons of The American Legion (SAL)?
Answer: The Sons’ eligibility criteria will change along with that of The American Legion. Any son or grandson of a living American Legion member will be able to join the SAL program. (Sons and grandsons of deceased veterans are also eligible.) For example, a son of a veteran who served between 1985 and 1988 previously would not have been eligible. With the extension of the war period, that veteran would immediately be eligible for The American Legion and the son would be able to join the SAL.
Question: How does this affect the eligibility for the American Legion Auxiliary?
Answer: This follows the same concept as the SAL, as noted previously. Membership in the American Legion Auxiliary is currently open to grandmothers, mothers, sisters, wives, and adopted female descendants of eligible veterans.
Question: How does this affect membership for departments, districts and posts?
Answer: This change opens up American Legion membership to thousands more veterans who likely live in your communities. They may become members immediately.
Question: The current membership applications don’t address the eligibility change. How do we process those members?
Answer: New membership materials will be developed and provided as quickly as possible. Until then, it is recommended that prospective members from a previously undocumented war era write “Other Conflicts” in the eligibility date section and send it in to their department with the appropriate dues.
Question: What steps should departments, districts and posts focus on?
Answer: A good first step would be to review all recruiting materials to look for eligibility dates. Information on electronic media (websites, social media channels, etc.) should be changed immediately. It is up to departments to decide on the best way to handle printed materials, while updated ones are being produced.
Question: How does this change the Paid Up For Life program?
Answer: There are no changes to the PUFL program, though the newly eligible members would be able to become PUFLs. To learn more about the program, visit https://www.legion.org/PUFL
Question: Who can I contact for more information about this change as it applies to membership and recruiting?
Answer: Contact the national Membership Division. Visit this web page to find the representative in your state. https://www.legion.org/membership/contactus
The American Legion
More than 1,600 members of the U.S. Armed Forces were killed or wounded in periods of time not designated as war eras since the end of World War II. The newly signed Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act of 2019 – The LEGION Act – honors those veterans, their spouses and descendants, extending membership eligibility in The American Legion Family to hundreds of thousands who had previously been excluded.
The LEGION Act offers American Legion membership eligibility to any U.S. military veteran who served at least one day of active military duty since Dec. 7, 1941, and was honorably discharged or is serving now.
American Legion print and digital promotional materials are now being updated by National Headquarters. Downloadable membership brochures, officer manuals, scholarship applications and other documents can be found here. As new materials are ordered from posts, districts and departments, they will also include inserts to reflect the changes in membership eligibility.
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The American Legion
In a significant legislative victory for The American Legion, President Trump signed a bill July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941.
The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. servicemembers who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war.
The LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act) also opens the door for approximately 6 million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible.
“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue,” National Commander Brett Reistad said. “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.’”
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 law’s journey began on Feb. 14 when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced S. 504, along with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. A companion measure, H.R. 1641, was introduced in the House by Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Ben Cline, R-Va.
Reistad expressed gratitude to the bipartisan members of Congress for passing the legislation.
“We are grateful that President Trump fully acknowledges the importance of The American Legion by signing the LEGION Act in the White House today – just one week after it passed the House of Representatives,” Reistad said. “In an era of partisan gridlock, Republicans and Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly recognized the importance of allowing thousands of honorable but previously ineligible veterans the right to join the largest and most influential veterans organization in the country.”
Reistad pointed out that existing American Legion membership applications are in the process of being updated but can still be used. “In the meantime, 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,” Reistad said. “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.”
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Story and Photos by Tim Sproles
The American Legion Department of Indiana recently held the 101st Annual Department Convention, July 11 through the 14th at the Marriot East Hotel in Indianapolis. The Department’s State Convention is held annually for Legionnaires from across the state to discuss and vote on Legion business, recognize Legionnaires and local heroes for their service and conduct elections for new Department officers.
The Department held the first of three general sessions Friday, where many state leaders brought greetings to our Hoosier Legionnaires including U.S. Senator Todd Young, DAV Junior Vice Commander, Bob Carnegie and AMVETS Vice Cmdr. Roger Williams.
The newly appointed Director of Veterans’ Affairs, Dennis Wimer also addressed the convention, where he ended his remarks by presenting Commander Strong with a certificate from the Governor Eric Holcomb naming him a Distinguished Hoosier.
The Department Convention is also a time to honor local heroes in the fields of military service, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services, and educators every year in communities across Indiana.
In the Military Person of the Year category, the Indiana National Guard’s Sergeant First Class Thomas Bunnell, who was sponsored by Fortville Post 391 in the 10th District brought home the National Guard award and United States Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Tracy, sponsored by Floyds Knobs Post 42 in the 8th District won for the Active Duty award.
The Department also honors first responders from around the state for their service to their local community. Rodney Snyder, who was sponsored by Hamilton Post 467 in the 4th District, was named the EMS of the Year. Chief Scott Olofson, sponsored by Speedway Post 500 in the 11th District, was named Firefighter of the Year. Officer Kyle Butz, sponsored by Broad Ripple Post 3 in the 11th District, was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
In the Educators of the Year Category, Connie Ingels, sponsored by Vevay Post 185 in the 9th District, was named the kindergarten through sixth grade winner, Pamela Yates, also sponsored by Vevay Post 185 in the 9th District, was named the seventh and eighth grade winner, and James Wiltshire, sponsored by Lake Station Post 100 in the 1st District, was named the High School educator of the year.
The Department also honored State Representative Bob Cherry Lonnie and State Representative Karlee Macer with Distinguished Public Service Awards for going above and beyond to work with Indiana Veteran Service Organizations to benefit our state’s Veteran community.
The Department took the opportunity to honor some of their own Bill Moffitt from Post 67 in the 10th District took home The American Legion Rider of the Year award.
The American Legion Burton Woolery Bloomington Post 18 finished the year with 1,269 members, which made them the top post in the entire state. Bryce Hullett from Post 64 of the 11th District, Ron Patterson from Daleville Post 446, Laurie Bowman from Post 152 in the 10th District, and Past Dept. Cmdr. James B. May from Bloomington Post 18 all received the Gold Brigade Membership Award for recruiting at least 50 new members into The American Legion.
Richard Schwartz from Brownsburg Post 331 in the 6th District took home top honors as the “Recruiter of the Year.”
The Department also recognized four outstanding Legionnaires with the highest honor the Department can bestow, The Distinguished Service Award. Past Department Commander, James May, a 47-year member from Bloomington Post 18, Stephen Short, a 41-year member from Lapel Post 212 in the 5th District, Charles Martin, a 54-year member from Wanatah Post 403 in the 3rd District, and Jerry Maune, a 50-year member from St. Leon Post 464 in the 10th District all received the award for their service to both The American Legion and our Hoosier Veteran community.
After the awards and scholarships were presented, it was time to elect the Department officers for the next command year.
This year, the Department elected Nick Nicholoff as the Department sergeant-at-arms, Ernie Komanski and Dick Sexton as Northern Vice-Commanders, Bill Parks and Steve Barnett as Southern Vice Commanders, Ed Trice was re-elected as Alternate National Executive Committeeman, and Jerry Jordon was re-elected as National Executive Committeeman.
Allen Connelly was elected The American Legion, Department of Indiana State Commander by delegates from the 11 Districts throughout the state.
Allen is a 49-year member of LaGrange American Legion Post 215 in the 4th District.
Allen adopted the Department slogan of “We Change Lives” as his motto this year, saying, “No other motto represents who we are and what we do better than We Change Lives. It’s more than a motto, it’s a focus statement for the entire Department.”
Allen’s “Commander’s Project” this year is the newly incorporated Indiana American Legion Legacy Foundation.
The American Legion Department of Indiana will meet again during the annual Fall Conference from Oct. 3-6 in Indianapolis.
Department Memorial Service
Story and Photos by: Tim Sproles
The American Legion Department of Indiana has a lot to celebrate.
Along with commemorating 100 years of “Changing Lives” in the Hoosier Legion community, the Department recently completed much-needed repairs and updates to the Department Headquarters.
On June 30, A dedication celebration was held at the Department Headquarters, in Indianapolis to celebrate these achievements with the entire Legion Family and the local community.
The celebration featured the Sons of The American Legion Detachment of Indiana serving up free hamburgers and hot dogs, a State Police static display, Huey helicopter rides, a musical performance from Bob and Bobby Wiggins, and a dedication ceremony.
During the ceremony, the Department celebrated a new Department Headquarters sign, the unveiling of plaque dedicating the Sons of The American Legion Detachment of Indiana’s donation of the headquarters building’s flagpole display, newly installed columns that feature The American Legion’s “Four Pillars,” and the burial of a 25-year time capsule.
First of the improvements was the new sign. It was the special project of Past Department Commander, Marty Dzieglowicz, who began his effort after just being tired of seeing the old sign out front.
Dzieglowicz said, “When we moved our headquarters to Lawrence, we kept the sign that was left over from when the Lawrence Soccer Club owned this building. We simply covered it with a vinyl sign that said The American Legion Department of Indiana. It just didn’t adequately represent our organization.”
During his command year of 2017-2018, PDC Dzieglowicz campaigned across the state for donations to replace what had come to be known as an “eyesore.”
Dzieglowicz said, “Our entire Hoosier Legion Family played a part in making this project possible. It was a tumultuous undertaking, but with the assistance of our family and Department Staff we made this beautiful sign a reality.”
The next celebrated update was the columns of the building. Each of these repairs columns now are labeled with each of the “Four Pillars of The American Legion.”
Department Commander, Rodney Strong, said, “In 1919, The American Legion was founded on the four pillars of Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism and Children & Youth. They have held The American Legion high for over 100 years. When it came time to make repairs to our columns, the decision was made to put these pillars on display on each of our new columns to act as a daily reminder to Legionnaires, veterans and fellow Hoosiers what The American Legion is here for.”
Next was the dedication of the Department Headquarters flagpole display plaque.
The display was donated by the Indiana Sons of The American Legion Detachment when the building was officially opened as the Department’s new headquarters on Sept. 7, 2014. On that day, Past Sons of The American Legion Detachment Commander Ron Sexton unveiled a plaque dedicating this flag display to the Department.
During his command year of 2014-2015, Ron made this flag display his project. He campaigned throughout the year and across the state and eventually raised the money to have it purchased and installed.
Commander Strong said, “We would love nothing more than for Ron to be here with us to unveil the mounted plaque, but unfortunately, Ron died Thursday, June 13. Only 18 days before the unveiling of the mounted plaque.”
Commander of the S.A.L. Detachment of Indiana, Doug Heiser, said, “Ron was an absolute visionary. This flagpole set is the perfect example of Ron seeing a need and making it happen.”
Commander Strong said that he hopes the plaque will forever show both the support of our Sons of The American Legion Detachment has given and continues to give to The American Legion Department of Indiana, but also the dedication of Past Commander Sexton to the Sons of The American Legion.
He said, “We take a lot of pride in this display. It’s the first thing that pops out to you when you turn on to our street and it remains a perfect representation of our American Legion family. Standing tall and standing together.”
The final dedication of the afternoon was the sealing and burial of a 25-year time capsule. The capsule was filled to the brim with items from the entire Hoosier Legion Family as well as other items of historical significance.
After the final items were hand-placed by Past National Commander of The American Legion, Jim Koutz, the capsule was sealed and buried outside of the entrance to headquarters.
Cmdr. Strong said, “I hope these symbols that we dedicated today continue to serve as a beacon to welcome any who seek our assistance.”
The Department time capsule is scheduled to be exhumed on June 30, 2044.
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