Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The American Legion Wants Me

The American Legion has nominated me for membership. I am truly honored. I have the highest respect for the American Legion, VFW, and all the men and women who have served our country.

But I’m not eligible.

The nomination letters states: “Not everyone qualifies for membership. But your status as a wartime veteran entitles you to the full benefits of membership.” Enclosed was an actual certificate of membership, which I could frame and hang on the wall. I am honored. I would love to eat at the Legion Halls and drink a few beers at the VFW.

The American Legion must know something I don’t.

I’m not eligible.

I did not dodge the draft, flee to Canada, burn the American flag, or my draft card. I did not bomb ROTC buildings or draft centers. I didn’t protest in front of induction centers or overseas

I also never feared the Viet Cong, Viet Minh, Khmer Rouge, Pathet Lao, or fragging. “Terminate with extreme prejudice” is a wonderful phrase I never worried about in reality.

I’m not eligible.

Both my father and father in law were wounded in the European theatre in World War II. My best friend was killed in Vietnam, and another friend was wounded in Vietnam.

I was safely ensconced in law school in America.

All the letter asked me to do was attach a check for $25.00 and check two boxes: the branch of the service I served in (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Marines, and the Merchant Marine during World War II) and the years I served. It didn’t even request my serial number or any proof of actual service.

Simple enough, check the two boxes, attach the check, and wait. I could lie; certainly some politicians lie about their military service, but those politicos would probably lie about anything.

I have too much respect for our veterans. They placed their lives on the line in serving our great country

Admiral Jeremy Boorda was quite the American success story. He is the only sailor to have entered the Navy as an enlisted man and then rise to become the Chief of Naval Operations. He is also the first CNO not to have attended Annapolis. He enlisted in May 1956, attended OCS in 1962. He became CNO on April 23, 1994.

His American Dream ended on May 16, 1996. A media exposure was going to claim that he did not earn the two “V” for "combat valor" pins he attached to two of his ribbons. He legitimately believed he was entitled to the two V’s. If though he wasn’t, then he dishonored his fellow sailors, the Navy, the military, and all the honorable men and women who have served under our nation’s flag.

He could not live with that dishonor.

I will not dishonor any of them by claiming membership in the American Legion.

But what mailing list am I on?

I didn’t burn my draft card, I should have bronzed it. It had the most magical wording on it: 4-F.

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