Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing Bill Authorizing Veterans of Vietnam To Become Members of the American Legion

September 01, 1966

Commander James, Commander Davis, members of the American Legion:

The Congress of the United States and the American Legion have made me very happy by sending me this bill today to sign. This measure will allow the veterans of Vietnam to become members of the American Legion.

I am hopeful that other bills will be passed opening the ranks of our veterans organizations to those who are so faithfully serving their country today. For the struggle for freedom in Vietnam today is as important as any conflict in which our countrymen have ever engaged at any time in the history of our Nation.

This bill before me sets a new date of eligibility for membership, and that date is from the Bay of Tonkin incident.

The American Legion, with its membership of over 2 1/2 million, gave unanimous support to the resolution requesting that their charter be amended by the Congress. This is the third time in history that the Legion has asked for such an amendment. It is testimony to their gratitude for the patriotic service being rendered in defense of America, and the entire free world.

I think if there is any question in anyone's mind how we feel about our fighting men, and of our determination to see this struggle through to a successful conclusion, that this emphatic action by the Congress, with the support of the American Legion, has answered those questions and made our stand of unity completely clear.

We know of the sacrifices, and we know of the deeds of valor, and we know the devotion of our servicemen. We also know the necessity for the conflict in Vietnam. We have not sought this conflict. We have not forced our will upon anyone. But in our earnest desire for peace, we have chosen the path of firm resolve.

We have come to the defense of other human beings threatened with the loss of their basic human rights. That is really the same battle for which the Legionnaires have fought three times before in this century. So I think it is quite appropriate that they should open their rolls to those who carry our flag today.

I noticed that Captain Roger Donlon, the Medal of Honor winner in Vietnam, in his speech before the Legion convention here Tuesday, expressed the hope that this bill would be passed and signed so that he could join the Legion. So I know you will have another illustrious member as soon as my name is affixed to the bill.

Note: The President spoke at 1:20 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to L. Eldon James, past National Commander of the American Legion for the year 1965-1966, and John Edward Davis, current National Commander of the American Legion. Later he referred to Capt. Roger H. C. Donlon, USA, who received the Medal of Honor on December 5, 1964 (see 1963-64 volume, this series, Book II, Item 793).

As enacted, the bill (H.R. 17419) is Public Law 89-550 (80 Stat. 371).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Bill Authorizing Veterans of Vietnam To Become Members of the American Legion Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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