At a press conference on Labor Day, President Donald Trump said, “I’m not saying the military is in love with me. The soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want 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.”
As I heard these words come out of the commander in chief’s mouth, I felt a need to respond.
Dear Mr. President:
Please let me enlighten you.
Senior military leaders have spent decades in service to this great nation. They serve because it is their honor. Every member of the U.S. armed services signed up willingly and many have walked with their heads held high into battle in defense of this nation.
The senior military leaders at the Pentagon have gone to battle, or sent troops into battle, not because they wanted to — they did so because political leaders have directed them to go. Political leaders decide which wars get fought and which ones do not. Congress passes military budgets. Politicians, not military leaders, accept the political donations from the “wonderful companies (that) make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else.”
So, tell me who benefits from wars? Not the people who serve in them. Not the families left behind. Military leaders ask that their troops be outfitted with the best equipment possible. If they are asked to send the nation’s sons and daughters into harm’s way on behalf of the United States, they want to send them with the equipment and technology that provides the best chance for them to come home safely to their families.
Throughout their careers, these seasoned officers have guided troops through multiple deployments. They have had thousands of troops under their command. They have educated themselves with multiple postgraduate degrees and military schooling. They have broken bread and bowed their heads in prayer with their troops and their families. These military leaders have missed countless wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays, Christmas mornings, children’s sporting events and family funerals due to deployments. They are not, as you asserted last Monday, people who “don’t like to come home,” people who “like to continue to spend money.”
The personal costs of being deployed are great. As are the costs of serving as leaders.
These leaders have received calls in the middle of the night that one or more of their troops has been injured or, worse, has died in the line of duty. Many of them go with the families to receive bodies of the fallen heroes at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and attend the funerals where they hold the grieving families in their arms. They visit the injured. They counsel the living. They watch for signs of mental health challenges among their troops.
I realize that a man who avoided military service by claiming bone spurs, a man who cannot acknowledge the heroism of a John McCain, a man who thinks wounded warriors have no place in a military parade because their injuries offend you, will never get it. You will never understand the military career, the military family or the military mindset. The saddest part is that you do not even try. To have the commander in chief speak in such despicable terms about the military leadership is an insult that up until now would have been unimaginable.
When other world leaders gather to honor the military heroes of the past you remain absent and blame the weather. When military leaders working on your staff question or present information that bothers you, you call them disparaging names. A man who misused the funds of a charity bearing your own name will never understand why these brave Americans do what they do. You are the living antithesis to the brave Americans who wear the uniform of the United States of America.
I understand that you thrive on division. You want to create “sides.” You want to pit us against one another. We are getting used to it. Pitting soldiers against senior officers is one more step on a bridge too far. These leaders are not “your generals.” The military is not “your military.” These great Americans get up every day knowing that they took an oath to the Constitution of the United States and that they serve all of the American people.
Mr. President: You could learn a lesson or two from them.
Lisa Wood, of Manheim Township, is a military spouse. These views are her own.