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Semper Fi?

Watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in October, 2016, I vomited a little in my mouth imagining donald trump [sic et seq] laying a wreath at this national testament to courage and sacrifice.

This was after the bogus draft deferments, the interview with Howard Stern, mocking John McCain and the Khans, and lying about money he raised for veterans’ groups. In January, 2016, he said he’d raised $6 million, including $1 million of his own money. Except that, based on interviews with charities, the Washington Post only found $3.1 million in donations and nothing from trump personally. Four months after making the promise, and only after being asked on Twitter, he finally fulfilled that pledge.

Then Lt. Col. Louis Dorfman handed trump his Purple Heart at an August, 2016 rally. He “always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.” trump is the second of three generations of his family never to serve in the Armed Forces. But he has a Purple Heart and believes he deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor for dodging STDs. And, oh yeah, the Nobel Peace Prize.

During the campaign, trump talked about surrounding himself with generals. Expecting them to be loyal to him and not the Constitution and knowing nothing himself about military strategy – though he boasted he knew more about ISIS than the generals – trump named Michael Flynn, John Kelly, James Mattis, and H.R. McMaster to his administration. Absent Flynn, the three generals quickly recognized that their task was to protect the country from trump. Within three years, they were gone.

In February, 2020, the administration announced plans to divert $3.8 billion from the Defense budget to build the border wall. The federal government has completed 260 miles of replacement and secondary walls, but only 5 new miles of fencing. Remember how he bragged that Mexico was going to pay for everything?

In 2019, he pardoned three convicted war criminals, thus undermining the military justice system as Commander-in-Chief.

He asserted that the traumatic brain injuries suffered from an Iranian attack on Americans in Iraq were nothing more than headaches. Continuing to privilege Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community, trump refused to confront him about Russian bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

In a Rose Garden address on June 1, he condemned protest violence as “domestic terror,” urged governors to deploy the National Guard to “dominate the streets,” and promised to deploy the military to “quickly solve the problems for them” if officials didn’t take action.

Then he oversaw the forcible removal of peaceful protesters outside the White House with pepper balls and smoke canisters so he could take a photo in front of a church holding a Bible. Gen. Mattis and other military leaders saw this as a threat to democracy. Dressed in camouflage, Gen. Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, regretted the walk across Lafayette Square that sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society. "I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics."  

By now, we know about trump’s contempt for the military as outlined in The Atlantic and in hours of taped interviews with Bob Woodward. The idea that individuals deem serving their country an honor and a responsibility is beyond the ken of the self-serving trump. “What was in it for them?” trump asked Gen. John Kelly at the grave of his 29-year old son Robert.

Unlike his predecessors, trump has traveled to Dover Air Force Base, the transfer point for the remains of fallen service members, only four times since becoming president and falsely claimed that he had called “virtually all” of the families of service members who had died during his term. When families said he lied, he rush-shipped condolence letters to them.

We know his fixation with military parades, but he will not include wounded veterans in the processions, claiming that they will disturb the spectators. “Nobody wants to see that.”

Friday, September 18th, is National POW/MIA Recognition Day, but the POW/MIA flag was removed from the top of the White House on June 14 – Flag Day – trump’s birthday. In November, 2019, trump signed into law bipartisan legislation requiring the POW/MIA flag to be flown year-round at prominent federal buildings, cemeteries and memorials – including the White House – and be clearly visible. The flag now flies, inconspicuously, somewhere on the grounds, in violation of the law. The president told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got.

82,000 missing Americans. Ask the families if there isn’t value in that.

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