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  • elainesbelson

Name-Calling Veterans: How Trump’s remarks are different from others he’s made and why it matters

Updated: Apr 1

Originally posted September 2020


I joined the Army late in life, at the age of 42. I was frequently asked why. While I was afraid it sounded hokey, I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself and have a larger impact. It wasn’t until I entered the Army I learned my reasons were neither hokey or unusual. Although my time in the Army was short, it remains one of the proudest and most defining experiences of my life.


As a clinical social worker, I have been writing articles about Donald Trump’s mental health for over two years. Nevertheless, when I read Jeffrey Goldberg’s report in the Atlantic Monthly, even I was shocked by the level of pathology of Trump’s remarks. It’s one thing to lack empathy. Given the obvious diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I knew that about Trump. But this was more disturbing. This was outright contempt for Servicemembers. I hardly slept that night.


Some will try to make this issue political. It isn’t. I love this country and what it stands for so much, it’s visceral. On TDY once, I remember watching the other passengers waiting for our flight and thinking how blissfully ignorant they were to the sacrifices of Servicemembers and their families. But this is why they serve: so Americans can go about their lives without fear.


Servicemembers don’t ask for praise. We’re not doing it to be acknowledged. We don’t ask for reward. The pride of serving our country is reward enough. But Veterans do deserve respect for their courage and sacrifice.


So I ask you: how can someone who not only fails to understand but doesn’t even value the courage and sacrifice of Servicemembers be put in charge of deciding their fate? In interviews and in his book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, General Jim Mattis describes a handwritten card he kept on his desk while serving as CENTCOM Commander at the Pentagon. It asked the following question: “Will this commitment contribute sufficiently to the America people to justify putting our troops in a position to die?”


In contrast, Donald Trump would apparently regard troops as suckers for risking their lives to protect the American people and losers if they returned injured or in a body bag. When asked about the hardest job of being President, Trump’s predecessors say putting troops in harms way. They understood that the lives of these men and women were in their hands.


How can the American people ask these brave men and women – moms, dads, brother’s, sisters, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles – to put their lives in the hands of someone who regards their sacrifice as a sucker’s bet? If nothing else disqualifies Donald Trump from remaining Commander-In-Chief, this does. Servicemembers deserve at least this much.

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