The American Legion plans to open its first post in Iraq, hoping to draw both servicemembers currently stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan and eligible veterans who want to show their support for troops by joining the new branch.

The new post will be established in Irbil and known as Post 68A, an auxiliary of Post 68, which is in Washington, D.C.

As of last week, American Legion officials in Washington said that some 15 people had signed up, but expected “well over a thousand” more once word got out about the new post.

“The opportunity to join the first American Legion Post in Iraq is kind of special and the chance to become a Charter Member of the first American Legion Post in Iraq is very special,” Tom Huff, who founded the new post, said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

“Membership is expected to grow to well over a thousand when veterans around the world learn of the opportunity to show their support for the troops by joining the Post in Iraq.”

Irbil was chosen, officials said, in part because it is relatively safe compared to the rest of Iraq.

Huff himself will be leading an American Veterans Trade Delegation to Irbil later this year, and has ties to officials in the Kurdistan Regional Government.

“Irbil is a place from which to start. We will later open in Afghanistan,” Huff said.

The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a wartime veterans organization.

There are some 3 million members in nearly 15,000 American Legion posts around the world, according to the group’s Web site.

According to Huff, any servicemember or veteran who served between these dates is eligible for the post:

n April 2, 1990 – cessation of hostilities as determined by U.S. government

n Dec. 20, 1989–Jan. 31, 1990

n Aug. 24, 1982–July 31, 1984

n Feb, 28, 1961–May 7, 1975

n June 25, 1950–Jan. 31, 1955

n Dec. 7, 1941–Dec. 31, 1946

n April 6, 1917–Nov. 11, 1918

n Merchant Marines: Dec. 7, 1941–Aug. 15, 1945

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