Trump doesn’t represent veterans’ values
To my fellow veterans, Mr. Trump claims, “I think my popularity with the vets is through the roof.”
If this is true, I don’t get it. I confess, he lost me about a year ago when he disrespected John McCain’s service as a prisoner-of-war. This is from a man who sought and received five draft deferments, although he claims that his military experience in a boarding school gave him more experience than many in uniform.
But this is all pretty “low hanging fruit” compared to the character at the core of the man. In 37 years in uniform, I was exposed to nonstop lessons in leadership. Nothing I learned in those years of study and experience about leadership resembles the manner of Mr. Trump. There is no evidence visible of the fundamental lessons of respect, honor and discipline great leaders tend to exhibit. Criticize in private, praise in public? Lead from the front? Put your people first? Take blame and share credit? Be the last guy in the chow line? Watch out for your buddy? Build a team and mentor your replacement? Leave no one behind?
Does any of this sound like Mr. Trump? Occasionally in the military we get what are sometimes termed as “toxic leaders” who place themselves above their troops. Most of us have experienced this type of personality. Would we actually elect one as our Commander in Chief?
Our oath was to the constitution, not a person. Does our prospective Commander in Chief respect and defend this same constitution? In the words of Mr. Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father of a soldier killed in action, “Has he read the constitution?” Or does Mr. Trump consider it as mere “political correctness”, which can be safely ignored? His great fondness for autocratic lead- ers such as Putin and Kim Il Jong is a clue to his political philosophy.
The military in which I served included people from almost every conceivable walk of life. I met people from every state, every race, every creed. I am convinced that we are all the better for it. Our military looks like our country. It is our country in all its diversity. Mr. Trump would like to take us back to another time, although he doesn’t say exactly when. Did you ever have a battle buddy who was of a different color or religion? Were you ever in a unit that was entirely the same? I took from, and I gave orders to people of different genders, races and religions, without blinking an eye in the most integrated institution in America, of which I am proud to have served. It was a world class model of integrity, excellence and selfless service.
I don’t see Mr. Trump demonstrating any of those those military values. The very core of his character seems almost the opposite in every way. He is fond of name calling, labeling and excusing himself. He does not take responsibility for his actions (it is always someone else’s fault) but he never fails to take credit for his successes. Try to imagine a military leader who behaved in this fashion. Would you follow a person like this in combat? The very idea of him sacrificing himself for another is unthinkable given his history.
Some are fearful that a man like this would have his finger on the nuclear button. A scary thought, but I am more fearful of his unpredictable and hair-trigger judgement regarding our Constitution, and the rights and freedoms for which our veterans have sacrificed. Mr. Trump may be popular for his pranks and his showmanship, but I hope our veterans will give some serious thought when they enter the voting both. Does this man truly represent the American values you treasure, and the freedoms you fought for?
Brig. Gen. Kennard R. Wiggins Jr. served for 37 years in the United States Air Force and the Air National Guard.