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Trump and the Veteran: Friend or foe?

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April 20, 2017

On Tuesday, April 14, USA Today ran the opinion column from Thomas Lipscomb entitled “The [sic] surprising truth about Trump and veterans: Column.” In the piece, Lipscomb alludes to President Trump’s ceremony for Medal of Honor Day on Friday, March 24. Lipscomb suggests that, although some may consider the event “cynical play to win over American veterans for a stronger role in Trump’s base of support,” Trump actually has a long record of supporting veterans’ issues.

Lipscomb mentions the January 2015 affair wherein former candidate Trump declined to participate in a Republican candidates’ debate hosted by Fox ahead of the Iowa caucuses, instead hosting a fundraiser for veterans said to have raised $6 million. Only five months later amid protests did Trump offer a full list of groups that received money from that effort. Lipscomb states that “the press preferred its assumption of likely bad faith,” but that to confirm Trump’s history of supporting veterans would not have been difficult.  Lipscomb relates that the opening of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. spurred action toward the establishment of other Vietnam memorials in the United States. Lipscomb tells us that as a co-chairman of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, Trump personally contributed $1 million and challenged the City of New York to contribute, and that these funds helped establish both a New York memorial and advance the New York Vietnam Veterans’ Leadership Program, an ongoing initiative to help Vietnam veterans.

Trump’s efforts with the aforementioned commission should be applauded, but one should be hesitant to praise Trump as a champion of veterans in his presidential capacity. His rhetoric on the campaign trail suggested selective praise for veterans at best, as he diminished Senator John McCain (R-AZ) by saying he “like(s) people that weren’t captured,” belittled the parents of killed-in-action soldier Humayun Khan and suggested that veterans suffering from PTSD “can’t handle it.” The President has recently reversed his stances regarding both the Assad regime in Syria and the U.S. relationship with NATO, and is currently threatening offensives against North Korea. All of these moves threaten to endanger American military members should they lead to unintended escalation of conflicts.

To shake hands on Medal of Honor Day is easy. If President Trump wants to cement his administration as one which champions veterans, he should push to strengthen and improve the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, recognize that PTSD is a mental disease rather than a mere sign of weakness and develop a coherent foreign policy so that those who will become U.S. veterans do not suffer needlessly due to poor policymaking.

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