Since returning home to New York after a tour in Iraq with the Army, I’ve gotten used to civilians occasionally saying stupid, sometimes offensive things about military service.
Some ask, “How many people have you killed?”
And of course, there’s “Do you have PTSD?”
I lead Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the fastest growing post-9/11 veterans group in America — and the only national veterans organization headquartered in New York. I felt like I’d heard it all. Well, clearly, I was wrong.
In the last couple of days, presidential hopeful Donald Trump has shown that there are still people who have never served, but still make ridiculous, insulting comments about veterans. Comments that should have been left behind long ago, in the dark days after Vietnam of blaming the warriors for the war. Trump’s asinine comments about Sen. John McCain’s service are an insult to everyone who has ever worn the uniform — and to all Americans.
I have had the honor of working with Sen. McCain on key veterans legislation, including the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which was signed into law by President Obama earlier this year.
He is very capable of defending himself, but a public attack on one veteran’s service is an attack on us all. Trump’s stupidity is especially egregious given its timing — right after the murder of one sailor and four Marines last week in Chattanooga, Tenn.
But there may actually be a silver lining in Trump’s absurdity. Hopefully, it will push every single presidential candidate from both parties to present their own real, specific platform on veterans issues. So far, not one of them has. But it’s not just the presidential candidates that have failed our veterans.
In the end, this isn’t really about Trump. It’s about the more than 20 million veterans in America who have put our lives on the line in defense of our freedom only to see our service disrespected for too long by politicians from both parties.
Last Tuesday, our office in New York received four calls from suicidal veterans. Four in a single day. Our veterans are literally calling out for help every single day.
Veterans are not a charity, we’re an investment. It’s long past time for Trump and everyone else who says they “support the veterans” to step up and put their money where their mouths are. Promote good policies, listen to our community, donate your time and money, or walk on down to the recruiting office in Times Square and enlist.
I’m sure Uncle Sam would be happy to consider an age waiver — and it even comes with a free haircut. A few minutes in boot camp and Mr. Trump would understand forever why Sen. McCain is a hero. And why every American has a moral obligation to support him and every other veteran.
This piece was originally published in NY Daily News, found here.