by Tony Wyman
If you listen to President Trump (parental warning: offensive language, racism, sexism), you will hear him shame Democrats like Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an immigrant from Thailand, who lost both her legs in the service of her country after the helicopter she was piloting for the U.S. Army was shot down in Iraq, for not supporting our “great troops.”
“Democrats are far more concerned with illegal immigrants than they are with our great Military (sic),” tweeted the five-time draft dodger Donald Trump, who, I am sure, likes pilots who aren’t shot down more than those who are blasted out of the sky. “Democrats are holding our Military (sic) hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration.”
Politics aside – I am NOT going to defend the Democrats’ less-than-stellar record on the military – it really gets under my skin when a man who did everything he could to avoid serving cites his love for men and women brave enough to put on a uniform, using them as emotional leverage against his political opponents.
As a military man, with all due respect, Mr. President, stick a sock in it.
Those of us who served, who volunteered to be the point of the spear, who loved our country enough to risk injury or worse in her service, don’t appreciate you hiding behind our uniforms now when you aren’t able to negotiate a simple deal with the Democrats, a mission that ought to be easy for the self-proclaimed master of negotiation to complete. And, don’t get us wrong, it isn’t that you didn’t serve that bothers us – hell, only .5% of Americans ever put on the uniform – it is that you avoided serving when needed by concocting a phony excuse that gets under our skin. If you truly loved the troops, your country, and the American people, sore heels wouldn’t have kept you out of uniform. And everyone who has ever worn a uniform knows this.
If you didn’t want to serve, so be it. If you had a way around it, using your wealth and connections, then that is as much a black mark against our system that allows the spoiled children of our wealthy and unscrupulous families to set themselves apart from the common man, from the – what do you call them – the forgotten man, as it is against you.
But don’t try to pretend you have some special affinity for us. You don’t. Your history says you have nothing but contempt for us, that you think we were suckers for having served when stable geniuses like you found a way to use the system to get out of serving.
Sen. Duckworth was absolutely spot on when she condemned the president’s remarks about Democrats hurting military readiness by refusing to support another continuing resolution to keep the government open. “I am not going to be lectured on military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger,” said the Army aviator, who, despite receiving a full medical disability after her double amputation, remained on duty in the National Guard, serving as a Lt. Colonel until she retired in 2014. “And I have a message for cadet bone spurs: If you cared about our military, you’d stop baiting Kim Jong Un into a war that could put 85,000 American troops, and millions of innocent civilians, in danger.”
The reality is there is no real evidence that Mr. Trump cares about the military. If he did, he would push for a real budget, one that allows the Armed Forces to plan, to make critical changes to training and readiness programs, that allows the modernization of aging weapons systems, that allows the military the flexibility to redirect funds to areas where the money is needed to regain American military superiority against our chief adversaries.
Unfortunately, the president’s current record on the military is no better than his past.
Trump Men Don’t Serve in Uniform
And not only is Mr. Trump’s personal history shameful when it comes to military service (well, and everything else, for that matter), his family’s is no better. The Trump clan’s history is replete with men who also avoided military service when called upon.
His grandfather, Frederick, for example, was also draft dodger. Frederick Trump emigrated from Germany at the age of 29, coming to America in 1898. In the spring of that year, he left the U.S. to live in Canada until 1901, going back to Germany in 1902 to get married. He attempted to return to Germany in 1904, but was refused to rejoin the land of his birth because officials determined he avoided his military service obligations while living in the country.
Mr. Trump’s father, Fred, was born in 1904, which made him approximately 35 during the draft for World War II, a war in which my 18-year-old uncle volunteered to serve. Unlike my Uncle Howard, who saw extensive combat experience in Europe and who would have been in the invasion force attacking mainland Japan had President Truman not used atomic weapons to end the war, President Trump’s father also managed to avoid serving. Fred Trump was not involved in any of the occupations that were exempted from service, such as war production, safety or agriculture, nor was he physically or mentally incapable of serving. Unlike 16.1 million men at the time, Fred Trump, despite being fit to serve, chose not to volunteer during the greatest war in human history.
Donald Trump’s history of avoiding military service is already well-known. He turned 18 in 1964, when the draft was in practice. Mr. Trump received the standard college deferments that other students his age would have received, men like Sen. John McCain, for example, who followed his father into the Navy, attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
By 1968, Mr. Trump’s college deferment ended when he graduated and he was assigned a 1-A draft classification. His draft lottery number, 350, was very high, practically ensuring that he would be called up to serve. However, his family lobbied for a medical waiver, citing the minor condition of bone spurs, a malady that didn’t prevent Mr. Trump from playing baseball in school, but did, apparently, make it impossible for him to serve in the military during wartime. His condition was, inexplicably, downgraded to a permanent disability and, by 1971, Mr. Trump was granted a 4-F waiver from serving his country in uniform.
In the meantime, my cousin Greg, also a college student in the late 1960s, attempted to follow his father Howard into military service. Volunteering to join the Army, the branch his father served, Greg was subjected to a physical examination that determined he had a defective heart, a malady that was life threatening, making him medically unfit to serve. Unlike the Trumps, my family sought additional opinions in an effort to get the medical exemption reversed. When the Army wouldn’t budge, Greg tried the other branches of the military, getting turned down by each, in turn. If you talk to him about it today, he will tell you his greatest shame in life is being the only male member of his family to have never served in an American military uniform.
So, when you hear President Trump tell you he stands behind the brave men and women who, unlike his grandfather, father and his sons, as well as himself, chose to volunteer for dangerous military duty in the service of their country, please remember that when the country needed men, the Trumps, unlike Tammy Duckworth, my uncle Howard and my cousin Greg, used the system to avoid answering the call.