I had a dream a couple of nights ago in which I visited the netherworld. Felt this overwhelming desire to assure those brave men buried at the Aisne-Marne American cemetery in France that the President’s comments were wrong, all wrong. For those of us with a modest bit of PTSD, Pres. Trump’s comments stung. Those comments remind us that there are some folks in this country who do not understand and do not respect our service. Those comments by the President ring true partly because they are consistent with how the President has treated veterans and their families in the past. In the public past, with no need for anonymous sources.
In 2015, he famously said John McCain was not a hero, because he was captured. As though we always have a choice about being captured.
In 2016, he attacked a Gold Star family for days because Kizr Khan dared to criticize then Candidate Trump. In 2017, He called the widow of SGT La David Johnson, who had just been killed in Africa. Clumsily, he told her that SGT Johnson knew what he signed up for. Even worse, he struggled to recall SGT Johnson’s name. …. If you cannot recall the name of the fallen, do not bother to make the call. SGT Johnson and his widow were black. Let us hope that did not make a difference.
In June, 2017, Pres. Trump called the family of SGT Dillon Balridge after he was killed in Afghanistan. Chris Balridge, the father, mentioned they were having trouble obtaining SGT Balridge’s death benefits. Pres. Trump said he would personally send a check. The President said, more or less, that no other president had ever done this before. Three months later, the check still had not arrived and was mentioned in the Washington Post. Then the President finally made good on this odd promise.
Only some 4 or 5 times has Pres. Trump met the remains of fallen soldiers at Dover AFB. Dover is the place they come form overseas. It is not necessary that he attend the ceremony at Dover, but he has bragged that he has done so “many” times. In 2017, he was there when the remains of SEAL Ryan Owens arrived. The father, Bill Owens refused to shake the President’s hand and told him he got Ryan killed for no reason. In a recent ad for Vote Vets, Bill Owens says the President made the decision to launch that raid over dinner with political advisors, not in any sort of situation room. He made approved the raid for no large tactical purpose, but to simply be a “big man at war,” said the Gold Star father. Bill Owens warns the country not to trust Pres. Trump. See Bill Owens’ ad here.
And, sure enough, in a State of the Union address soon after that raid, Pres. Trump had Ryan Owens’ widow attend. He sensationalized her presence in the midst of her grief.
In 2018, he sent active duty troops to the border to emplace concertina wire and paint the wall. Neither duty requires military expertise. He kept them there through Christmas. Again for no apparent strategic purpose.
In 2019, 11 U.S. soldiers suffered concussions after missile attacks in Iran. The President minimized their injuries, saying they simply had headaches. But, of course, we know today that concussions do sometimes lead to traumatic brain injuries.
When the captain of the U.S. Theodore Roosevelt took extreme actions to protect his crew from the coronavirus, the president disparaged the captain in a series of tweets. The captain was soon relieved of command. Relived from command generally ends a career.
The President has disparaged the service of John McCain over and over. He disparaged American heroes, like Adm. Bill McRaven, Gen. James Mattis, Gen. John Kelly, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. See The Atlantic story here for more information. This is a President who pays lip service, but little else.