By Paul Edwards
Training Committee member
Have you ever received a message, whether by email, letter, or text where someone is telling you about an issue and encouraging you to contact your state or national elected official?
How often does your mind say, “I can’t do that. I am a Legionnaire, and I can’t get involved in politics”?
Pro-veteran politics is OK
Whether or not this is the correct response depends on two things: the topic and how you present yourself.
If the topic is something that will benefit veterans, then by all means contact your legislator, and identify yourself as a member of The American Legion.
Remember that support for veterans and their families is one of our Four Pillars. If you identify yourself as a Legion member, then there is an implication that the Legion supports or opposes the issue.
A prime example of this is our state’s Veterans Day on the Hill in the spring, and how, throughout the year, the Department of Minnesota works to pass legislation in St. Paul that benefits veterans or their families.
When to keep the Legion out of it …
On the other hand, if the issue does not specifically benefit or concern veterans, then feel free to contact them as a private citizen, which is your right and duty as a citizen. As a private citizen, you also have the right to support whatever political party or candidate you choose, if you remember that you are supporting them and do not represent as a Legion member.
The Legion is a political organization
Many people do not realize that The American Legion is a very political organization. If you look at the organizational chart for your District, Department or National and perhaps your Post, you will find a legislative chair or even committee members.
Their job in the Legion is to be in the halls of Congress and the statehouses working with representatives from all political parties to support veterans’ causes.
Have you ever heard of the VA? How about the G.I. Bill? Or perhaps the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act? All of these and many more can be attributed to the Legion lobbying for veterans.
Can you support an issue that supports veterans and their families as a Legionnaire? Yes.
Can you support any issue as a Legionnaire? No, only ones that support veterans and families.
Can you support a political party or candidate? Yes, as yourself, not as a Legionnaire.
Can you attend a political rally or protest? Yes, but do not wear your Legion cap or anything that might identify you as a Legionnaire.
What if you are a leader?
High-profile members of The American Legion face a different level of scrutiny than others. It can be said it is harder for them to just be a civilian and not represent the Legion with their actions and words in daily life.
It would be best for them to keep personal politics out of the public eye and focus on veterans issues. Most of all, avoid anything siding with one party or the other.
There are many more items that could be included but the basic thing to remember is that The American Legion is political in that it uses a political system to advance veterans’ issues, but it is not partisan in that it does not support any party or candidate.