The previous post dealing with “second-class veterans” generated a flurry of reaction, through e-mails and personal observations in addition to the direct comments. One reader questioned the assertion that the American Legion would exclude a two-year vet who was honorably discharged. She said this is so preposterous that I must be wrong.
I rechecked at www.legion.org. I was right. Had I served from June 25, 1950 through January 31, 1955 (Korea) I could join. Ditto for February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975 (Vietnam). But my service from May 20, 1958 through May 19, 1960 doesn’t count. I would qualify, however, had I served for about five weeks starting December 20, 1989, when we attacked a mighty adversary . . . Panama!
American Legion membership runs in my family. Two of my uncles served overseas in World War I and became legionnaires. Another uncle was awarded a Croix de Guere medal by the French government for bravery in battle. He would have had no trouble joining the American Legion, but I don't know that he did.
My father was drafted in the last days of WWI, and was discharged while still in training in North Carolina. He was in the U.S. Army barely long enough to have his picture taken in uniform. That minimal and hardly dangerous service qualified Dad for American Legion membership. He joined and participated in activities of the local post for nearly 50 years.
We had other connections. I played American Legion baseball for two years, and one of my proudest possessions is a trophy given to me by the post in my hometown as the "Outstanding Senior--1953" in my high school class.
Strangely, although the Legion obviously doesn’t want me as a brother vet, I could participate in some of the organization’s activities. I qualify to sign on as one of the “Sons of the American Legion” because of Dad’s brief service back in 1918.
I’ll be damned if I’ll walk through that loophole!