The revelation that Donald Trump disparaged the 1,811 U.S. Marines who died in the fierce fighting at Belleau Wood in WW1 as “suckers” and “losers” brought out additional accounts of his unfortunate attitude toward those who serve in the U.S. military.
Trump has called airmen who got shot down by enemy forces, including President George H.W. Bush and John McCain, “losers.” A senior administration official said Trump “frequently” disparaged the missing in action, calling them losers. Earlier this year, the POW/MIA flag that had flown over the White House was demoted to a less visible place on the grounds, angering MIA families. During planning for a military parade, Trump told staff not to include amputees because, “Nobody wants to see that.”
Fox News national security correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, reported that Trump has questioned why people join the military--”What’s in it for them? They don’t make any money.” Griffin also reported Trump saying that anyone who served in the Vietnam War was a “sucker.” According to another report, he believed those who served in Vietnam must be “losers” because they had not gotten out of it. Trump has suggested that Vietnam veterans didn’t know how to exploit the system to get out of serving.
Trump’s father was able to get a podiatrist, who was a tenant in one of his buildings, to say that Donald had bone spurs in one or both of his heels to help him escape the draft. Ironically, the theme music at a September 10 Trump rally in Michigan was about rich kids dodging the Vietnam draft.
Some of those subject to the draft tried to take advantage of any available deferment to avoid being drafted, but I doubt there were many who used false medical excuses to get out of doing their part. It was not a matter of being too stupid to get out of service, but of being too honorable to cheat their way out.
As a Vietnam combat veteran, I want to respond to Trump’s misconceptions. The people with whom I served in Vietnam were patriots who loved their country. Many disagreed with the wisdom of the war, but nevertheless they gave their utmost effort to the fight. They did not need a monetary incentive to serve their country. Likewise, the young people who streamed to join the all-volunteer service after 9-11 were motivated by love of country, not love of money.
Many volunteered for Vietnam service, even if they had a valid excuse to get out of it. For instance, I was physically disqualified as a result of an auto accident that mangled my legs, requiring a 14-week hospital stay. Yet, I voluntarily joined the Army and insisted on going to Vietnam. Many others who fought in that war, and the ones since, have similar stories. It is a sense of duty to this great country.
In the 1980s, I collected biographical information for a book, Reasons to Remember, honoring Idaho’s 251 Vietnam War dead and missing. Not one of them was a cheater or loser.
Vietnam vets lived through years of bad publicity. It took years for the American public to recognize that they had stood up for their country and served honorably. They were not losers, suckers or too dumb to cheat their way out of serving. They served because they loved and honored their country, as do the young people who volunteer today. It would be appreciated if the commander in chief could understand that simple fact.