HEEEEEE’S BACK! And anxious to catch up on lost time. Again my thanks for the well-wishers and positive (OK, mostly) feedback. Very sincerely appreciated.

Al Heidenreich's Veterans' Views column sig

Al Heidenreich’s Veterans’ Views column sig

Here we go again with the reaction to the recently announced changes forthcoming as announced last week by the beleaguered Manchester VA director, Al Montoya. As per usual he finds himself in a “damned if you do/damned if you don’t” position which is usually not of his own making. I am a longtime in/out patient of said establishment and while I am the first to agree that things are far from perfect, they are much better than a few years ago and apparently headed in the right direction. C’mon guys and gals, let’s give him a fair chance. Don’t shoot the messenger!

Coast Guard flagpole still needs funds

Ooooops! You may remember a year or so back that I asked readers to help fund the lone unsponsored flag and pole erected at Veterans Park in downtown Manchester. The other four service flags and poles received donations to cover the costs but due to an accounting error the Coast Guard memorial was omitted. I received a number of private donations ranging from $5 to $200 but these fell short and I did not solicit additional contributions.

I am planning a dedication ceremony at Veterans Park in conjunction with the CG’s 229th birthday on Aug. 4, 2019. I do not intend to let the flag-and-pole project go unfinished, and promise a successful conclusion. The current funds on hand are in a local bank and any who wish to add to it can send it to: Coast Guard Honor Fund, 53 Lincoln St., Manchester, NH 03103. Any amount will be greatly appreciated. Information, suggestions and comments are welcome. Semper paratus!

Legion opens doors wider

I hereby grant permission to myself to reprint the following excerpt from my Veterans’ Views column from Aug. 30, 2018:

“I am a multi-year member of The American Legion and my qualifications are that I served in the U.S. Army from 1951-1954. These were the Korean War years but my tour of duty was in the Army of Occupation in post World War II Germany (where else with a name like mine?). In other words, I served in Germany but am considered a Korean War veteran. Make sense? Actually, yes.

“Now hear this. I have a friend who went to college from 1950-55, spent four years in ROTC, received a commission and spent three years in Germany, and was honorably discharged, but cannot join The American Legion because he served between January 1955 (Korea) and February 1961 (Vietnam), when there was ‘no war.’

“Crazy? You bet! His life was in danger thanks to our Russian friends but no matter.

“Now comes the kicker: Should he pass away, the U.S. Government will provide a full military funeral (in a veterans’ cemetery if desired, spouse also) with taps, a flag ceremony and a bronze plaque, but he cannot transfer to the Eternal Post in the Sky because he did not belong! Are you freaking kidding me?

“There is more. This same scenario applies to those whose service period falls between Dec. 31, 1946 (World War II), and June 25, 1950 (Korea). How about May 7, 1975 (Vietnam), to Aug. 24, 1982 (Lebanon/Grenada)? Throw in Panama and the Gulf War and ... oh well, you get the point by now.”

(End reprint from 2018.)

Who among us does not relish the opportunity to say “I told you so”? Certainly not I for darn sure! Way before this column first appeared in print form, I hosted a local call-in show for over 15 years, “In MY Opinion,” on Manchester Community Television Cable Channel 23, and one of my long-running complaints was the lack of foresight of The American Legion to press for change in the membership eligibility requirements that were antiquated and out of touch and excluded so many thousands (if not millions) who served their country.

Among those interviewed one-on-one, live in person, were at least five American Legion national commanders, and many New Hampshire legislators, and not one disagreed or opposed my idea but nothing ever came of it, nor did I ever even receive a reply. Oversight, I am sure, or filed in the round cabinet?

EDITOR’S NOTE: President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law S.504, the “Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service,” or LEGION, Act. The law opens up American Legion membership to veterans who served during “so-called peacetime eras” or “unrecognized war eras.” Thanks to the law, those who served from April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, or after Dec. 7, 1941, now can apply to join. American Legion membership had previously been open only to those who fought in certain recognized conflicts. The law also adds a new section that reads: “The requirements for holding a staff position in the corporation may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Al Heidenreich is past commander of Henry J. Sweeney American Legion Post 2. Write to Al with your questions and comments at alanheidenreich@aol.com.