Monday, November 14, 2016

Second-Class Vets Get the Call

Another Veterans Day has passed, and it's once again time to thank those who so generously thanked me for my service. And once again, it's time to point out that in the United States not all veterans are created equal.

Thank you, Applebees, for a delicious dinner. The place was packed with veterans. This year, the brewers of Sam Adams provided a free beer with my complimentary meal. Thanks, Sam.

We wanted to replenish our dog and bird feed supplies and pick up several hardware items. Our local Tractor Supply store was the place to go, and they gave a 15 percent discount to vets. Thanks, Tractor guys.

A surprise gift showed up the day after Veterans Day. We went shopping for several exotic holiday gift items at World Market. At the checkout stand was a sign offering vets a 25 percent discount throughout the weekend. Thanks, World Market.

My local newspaper marked the day with a feature story about Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in the area recruiting honor guard members. The honor guards traditionally present a flag to the family of diseased vets and fire 21-gun rifle salutes at burial sites. Seems several posts can't come up with enough members who can shoulder a rifle to handle the duties, so they now seek members of the American Legion and even honorably discharged vets who are not members of the VFW or Legion to serve in honor guards.
They want us to help honor Legion vets who don't honor us.
I served two years in the U.S. Army, and was honorably discharged on May 19, 1960. I don't qualify for VFW membership because all my service was stateside and VFW members served overseas. I have no problem whatever with that.  However, I think it is reprehensible that many honorably discharged veterans are ineligible for American Legion membership.

Overseas service is not required by the American Legion. Members need only honorable service during seven "war eras," defined by arbitrary dates. Because my service dates don't fit into an "era," I am a second-class veteran not eligible for Legion membership, even though some of my less fortunate fellow soldiers were being dispatched to Viet Nam as "advisors" during my service time. Strangely, if I had served for just one day in the "era" that began nine months after my discharge, I would be welcomed as a Legionnaire.

Thousands, perhaps millions, who served honorably in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force are with me in the ranks of second-class veterans.   

It seems the ultimate irony that we now are being invited to join honor guards to shoulder a rifle and fire a salute to fellow veterans whose largest organization bars us from membership. Perhaps those "patriots" in the U.S. Congress, some of whom never gave a day of military service to their country, could act to give second-class veterans first-class status. The American Legion operates under a Congressional charter.


Celia said...

Amen. And than you for your service.

PiedType said...

Absolutely Congress should make the necessary changes. Service is service. Thank you for yours. T

joared said...

Thank you for your service. As a young girl I collected donations on the sidewalks around our town square offering Buddy Poppies for the American Legion during WWII since my brother served overseas in the Navy. I've been unaware the Legion had these requirements but circumstances were such I ceased to have any involvement with the group in all these years since. I vaguely recall some sort of controversy about the Buddy Poppy between the Legion and the VFW years later. It would certainly seem to me, at the very least, if the Legion's requirements allow them to have veterans such as yourself serve on their honor guard that you should have membership.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your service. Just crap when you are treated differently. Hopefully, enough will squawk this will change.

Bob Swicker said...

I read your article about the American Legion and would also like to point out another group that are not allowed membership. Atheists. A former member of our church wanted to be a member of the Legion and he said that "He believed in God" even though he was an atheist.

I don't believe that they should have a congressional charter to represent veterans. If you look at Wikipedia it talks of them opposing the ACLU, supporting the Hollywood Blacklist, and possibly starting the attack on the IWW in the Centralia Massacre of 1919.

Although I am eligible to join them since I am a Vietnam Era Vet I have no desire to do so.

Dick Klade said...

Bob: Thanks for pointing out some things I didn't know, including that another large group of vets is excluded from Legion membership by uncalled for rules. And, yes, Congress should look long and hard at chartering the organization because of its discriminatory practices and past unAmerican activities.

Kay said...

Thank you for your service, Dick. We appreciate what you've done for our country. We missed Veteran's Day this year since we were in S. Korea.

joared said...

I never knew all those things about the Legion either but my only contact was as the child I described during WWII.

joared said...

I never knew all those things about the Legion either but my only contact was as the child I described during WWII.

ronald said...

I feel your pain, I just recently joined the Legion. My time was in the National Guard and even though I was “part time” for over 20n years I did not serve overseas, looked down for my time but those who did, you bet. I have been talking to WWII vets and they say when they tried to join the VFW back after the big one, the World War One guys looked down on them. Having been involved now two years and listening to those who have been longer, I can see some of the reasons they have trouble getting honor guards, or members.