Wounded veterans and Gold Star families answer President Trump’s question about why troops serve

His course of is solitary​, however the final time he wrote these letters at our eating desk, I walked by him on my solution to the kitchen. He was crying as his pen moved throughout the paper.

He returned dwelling safely. The letters went unread. I discovered them within the backside of a desk drawer final week whereas I used to be packing up our home to maneuver, nonetheless sealed, “Do not open unless I’m gone” written on them.

They had been on my thoughts a pair days later, when Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic got here out, detailing how President Donald Trump had known as American Marines killed in World War I “losers” and “suckers.”

It additionally describes how on Memorial Day in 2017, Trump had visited Arlington National Cemetery together with his then-secretary of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly, whose son, Robert, a younger Marine Corps officer who died after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan in 2010, was buried there.

“He was 29,” Goldberg writes. “Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, ‘I don’t get it. What was in it for them?'”

It’s a crude question. And it misses the purpose.

“To serve something higher than yourself is why most veterans from my view, from my experience, why they join,” says Kait Wyatt, a Marine Corps veteran whose husband, Cpl. Derek Wyatt, additionally a Marine, died in Afghanistan in 2010.

First Lt. Robert Kelly was her husband’s platoon commander. He additionally commanded retired Corporal Sebastian Guadalupe Gallegos.

“They’re doing it out of a sense of patriotism. And that patriotism is not loyalty to a specific political party or politician but to America,” explains Gallegos, who misplaced his arm in an explosion in Afghanistan.

Americans serve to guard their brothers and sisters in arms.

Major Gen. Paul Eaton served greater than three many years within the Army, taking his expertise coaching younger American squaddies to Iraq, the place he was accountable for coaching Iraqi forces.

His father, Air Force Col. Norman Eaton, died within the Vietnam War in 1969, flying missions to ship provides and offering shut air help to Special Forces.

“He was shot down over a Ho Chi Minh trail section just outside of Vietnam in Laos,” Eaton defined in a video he posted on-line criticizing Trump’s remarks about service members, holding his father’s recovered canine tag.

“The best men and women in the United States of America are found in the Armed Forces of the United States military. Brave men and women. They’re not just brave, they’re smart – and they’re wise.”

But how does a commander in chief who wraps himself in photos of the navy, and is accountable for sending them into hurt’s method, not perceive this?

To borrow Trump’s phrases, what’s in it for him?

Members of the navy seem like on this President’s thoughts solely once they serve a function.

In Trump’s case, that is recognition by affiliation.

The navy is probably the most esteemed American establishment. Sixty % of Americans “express[ed] a great deal of confidence in leaders of the military,” in response to a Pew Research Center survey performed in 2020.
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By comparability, 13% say the identical of the press, and simply 6% have that confidence in Congress.

For Trump, the navy is a muscle for him to flex, whether or not it is together with National Guard navy police within the federal legislation enforcement presence that pushed again peaceable protesters exterior the White House, or deploying energetic obligation troops to the US-Mexico border throughout an immigration disaster — regardless that they’re constitutionally prohibited from serving a helpful position there — or an costly taxpayer-funded Fourth of July navy parade that figured prominently within the political movies aired through the Republican National Convention.

The navy will not be almost as vital to Trump when the transaction goes the opposite method: once they want him. As dozens of US troops in Iraq endure traumatic mind accidents — “headaches,” the President known as them — because of an retaliatory Iranian strike Trump needed to attenuate. Or when Russia locations reported bounties on the heads of US service members in Afghanistan and the President doesn’t so much as mention it when he talks to Vladimir Putin.

When Gold Star families train the rights that their fallen family members swore an oath to guard — just like the Khan household, who misplaced their son Humayun to a suicide bomber in Iraq and spoke out in opposition to Trump on the 2016 Democratic conference — the President maligns them.

And simply this week, as Trump criticized who he considers probably sources for The Atlantic story, he was once more trying to drive a wedge between rank and file service members and navy leaders, accusing his personal protection officers of wanting “to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
This politicization of the navy is what incensed Kait Wyatt this week, when she noticed an image of Trump’s 2017 cemetery go to that she had not seen earlier than. In it, the President is talking with Gen. Kelly. Vice President Mike Pence seems on as a cameraman captures the second amid a throng of onlookers taking photographs with their telephones.

There, in entrance of the boys, is her husband’s grave.

“You can’t stand on the graves of better men who fought and died for this country while you rip apart that country with your incompetence,” she mentioned on CNN.

Those higher males and girls are atypical Americans who did a unprecedented factor: they answered the decision. The ones who survive are sometimes preventing for regular lives. They are battling scars seen and unseen just because, with every part to danger, they’re the uncommon few who mentioned, “send me.”

“What would you risk dying for — and for whom — is perhaps the most profound question a person can ask themselves,” writes warfare correspondent Sebastian Yunger in “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging,” an exploration of the challenges navy personnel face once they return from warfare.

“The vast majority of people in modern society are able to pass their whole lives without ever having to answer that question, which is both an enormous blessing and a significant loss.”

For the commander in chief to by no means really search an answer to that question is a disgrace.

Please ship story concepts and suggestions to homefront@cnn.com

CNN’s Catherine Valentine contributed to this report.

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