It’s easy to be cynical when Donald Trump stands up in Washington D.C. and publicly laments the treatment of our veterans, then in the same breath promises to build a bigger and better military which will, of course, produce more veterans. And if this bigger and better military engages in more wars (after all, that’s what bigger and better militaries do) then once again there’ll be few resources to treat the masses of returning wounded. You can’t toss two trillion dollars away fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then expect monies to be available for health care and convalescence and therapy, both physical and psychological.
Donald Trump never fought in the military. And neither did I. I was a student during the peak years of the Viet Nam War and then a teacher after that. I have no idea what it is like to be engaged in a firefight or to know that the next second may be your last, and I won’t pretend that movies and television have clarified it for me. I won’t even pretend that owning up to my escape is either noble or admirable. It was luck—nothing more.
As it was for Mr. Trump…sort of. He also used up several student deferments, but then—in 1968—he claims to have been at the Wharton School of Finance watching the draft lottery at which time he received a high number. Unfortunately he graduated from Wharton more than a year before the lottery was held. And also in 1968 he was declared medically unfit to serve “except in time of national emergency,” even though he had been declared fit to serve two years before. Why? No one knows.
Our presidents have a long record of stateside service, early discharges, and high draft numbers. George H. W. Bush possesses a distinguished military record, but his is the exception. Still, maybe it was his experience that kept that First Gulf War to one-hundred hours—not the fourteen years of his son’s attempt. And when Bush One was criticized for not continuing the offensive, he responded by saying that such an action would force us to occupy Baghdad, permanently destabilize Iraq ,and set in motion events that would result in incalculable human loss. Good call—too bad you couldn’t convince Karl Rove or Dick Cheney.
In short, people like Bush Two and Trump…and me…don’t have much of an understanding of military strategies and tactics, and when we pretend to, we sound like fools. But to publicly lament the treatment of veterans for political gain is contemptible. Remember the six million dollars Trump promised to donate to the veterans? Turns out they got less than that, most of which came not from the contributions of supporters, but instead from wealthy friends like pharmaceutical billionaire Stewart J. Rahr. I would guess that were Trump to win the presidency, he might be more beholden to Mr. Rahr than he would be to the veterans—out of sight and out of mind—languishing in hospitals.
Politicians have been utilizing Memorial Day for political gain for as long as there have been wars and soldiers to fight them. Trump is simply carrying on the tradition, though promising more wars is certainly a novel approach.