Reality TV now becomes reality with real estate mogul Donald J. Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.
Troubling are his shocking and at times unbalanced stances on the military, national security and veterans. They should anger and unnerve Texans in particular given our state’s history of patriotism and duty.
Look no further than Fort Hood, the world’s most populated military installation with more than 50,000 troops and civilians. Or Fort Bliss in El Paso, with 38,500 activity duty troops, and the other eight military bases and training centers in Texas. Consider the more than 1.6 million veterans who reside in the Lone Star state.
That Trump could soon assume the role of commander-in-chief and gain access to American nuclear codes terrifies many of our military leaders. They cannot voice their fears, unless retired, because military protocol restricts active duty officers from mixing in politics. And Trump is potentially their next supreme boss.
Nonetheless, the New York real estate mogul’s disrespect for the critical role that active duty troops and veterans play in protecting our country’s safety and fostering peace and freedom abroad does not go unnoticed in Texas as elsewhere.
From off-the-cuff, ill-advised statements denigrating NATO to threats to remove American troops from South Korea, Germany and Japan, the evidence against Trump’s attitude toward the military is obvious. Promises to “bomb the [expletive deleted] out of ISIS” on one hand, coupled with promises to remove U.S. troops from abroad display Trump’s lack of appreciation for the mechanics and purpose of America’s military. So, too, does his characterization of retired four-star Marine Gen. John Allen as a “failed general” for daring to disagree with Trump.
An even more troublesome example of Trump’s insensitivity toward military service occurred when he belittled the Gold Star parents of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim American who died in a 2004 Baghdad suicide bombing, for the father’s harsh criticism of Trump at the Democratic National Convention. He tried to bait the parents into a schoolyard brawl, suggesting their Muslim faith as the reason Mrs. Kahn stood silently by her husband’s side during his remarks that primarily highlighted their son’s ultimate sacrifice to freedom and service to country. She said she was too emotional to speak and her religion had nothing to do with it.
VFW officials, traditionally a conservative and Republican group, have blasted Trump's comments about the Khans as inexcusable. Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, Khan's former commanding officer, called the 27-year-old soldier a great officer in the Washington Post and labeled Trump's words an “attack on all patriotic and loyal Americans who have sacrificed.”
Also troubling is Trump’s mockery of former U.S. Navy Capt. John McCain, now a U.S. Senator from Arizona. Shot down and badly wounded in 1967 while flying his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam, McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. Trump, who received five deferments during the Vietnam era and has never served, dismissed McCain’s captivity by saying he likes “people that weren’t captured.”
Marty Peters, past unit president of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 50, disagreed and called all American POW and MIA service men and women heroes.
“As a nonprofit organization we do not speak to political views,” Peters said. “However, the American Legion Auxiliary exists to support our veterans and military men and women and the sacrifices made by them and the families who have lost loved ones in service to our country.
“Capt. Khan is without question a hero and we extend our condolences to his family as is Sen. McCain. Our military and our veterans should never be used as political pawns.”
Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who also has flaws, are locked in what appears to be shaping up as a bitter battle for the White House. Voters with open minds will be judging their commitment to traditional American values. Trump is way behind on the 240-year-old value of respecting and honoring our military forces for their service and their purpose.