Commentary: Serve with honor, honor those who serve … or support Trump?

Wim Laven

Commentary: Serve with honor, honor those who serve … or support Trump?
November 14
10:37 2019

By Wim Laven

Starting as Armistice Day, celebrated for the first time November 11, 1919 – the first anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918 – what we now call Veterans Day is the observance of thanks to those who have served military duty. It acknowledges the living and the dead for honorably representing our country during peacetime and war. This year it is imperative that people understand that honor and the name Donald Trump cannot fit in the same sentence. His dishonor to the service and sacrifice of American service members in Syria and to our Kurdish allies is the epitome of disgraceful.

This was the offense too much for General James Mattis to stomach, the reason he resigned from his position as Secretary of Defense, because nothing is more dishonorable than betraying and turning your back on those who sacrificed right next to you. Mattis could not countenance the resultant resurgence of ISIS in the region and the escape of the ISIS soldiers during predictable episodes of Turkish violence. 

For Trump, there is a long string of such disgrace. He offers no empathy to prisoners of war; he likes it better when they avoid capture. Instead of reflecting on the trauma of those who were led to participate in the crimes against humanity in Vietnam and Cambodia, he said avoiding STDs was his own personal Vietnam – he partied after his fake bone spur exemption, while others were drafted and died. It happens when he calls Purple Heart recipients disloyal, or dual loyal, because the only service he cares about is blind loyalty to him. Lt. Col. Vindman is just one in an incredibly long string to receive Trump treatment for simply speaking the truth. Gold Star families, relatives of those who paid the ultimate price defending the U.S., deserve no esteem from Trump and are disrespected by him again and again. He really does not care about anyone but himself, careers of dedicated service be damned!

As one who carries these convictions, I know that one can be anti-war, pro-peace, and honor veterans. These are not mutually exclusive beliefs or feelings, and they represent long thought, listening, and learning.

Twenty years ago I used to listen to unimaginable stories. A regular customer at the pizza place I worked at told me I reminded him of a guy he shared a foxhole with. I just listened. He never recovered from Vietnam – he self-medicated with alcohol – and he just needed someone to listen. Empathy and compassion are the first step toward honoring those tortured souls.

An appreciation for honoring veterans must go deeper. Defending them against those who insult, defame, and betray their service only scratches the surface. No civil society should write blank checks for military force while leaving more than 40,000 veterans homeless and hundreds of thousands more to live with food insecurity and poverty.

The deepest commitment is a patriotic commitment to the protection of the fundamental principles of our constitutional democracy. Want to honor veterans? Get out in the streets! Protest for an end of the tenure of the criminal in the White House. Veterans have not fought to remove dictators in other countries to see a President ignoring checks and balances while insisting that he is above the law in their home country. 

Find the protest nearest you.  #OutNow is one source of information. The disgrace in the White House is not going to resign on his own. Everyone deserves better than this, especially those who risk death for what they believe is defending our country.

Wim Laven, Ph.D., syndicated by PeaceVoice, teaches courses in political science and conflict resolution.

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