Trump’s Insults Veterans: How this is different and why it matters

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I joined the Army late in life, at the age of 42. In announcing this decision, the first question I’d get was “Why?” While I feared my answer would sound hokey, I told the truth: because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself and to make a larger impact. It wasn’t until I entered the Army that I realized my motivation was not hokey at all, or abnormal.

As a clinical social worker, I have been writing articles about Donald Trump’s mental health for over two years. Nevertheless, when I read Jeffrey Goldberg’s report in the Atlantic Monthly, even I was shocked by the level of pathology of Trump’s remarks. It’s one thing to completely lack empathy. Given the obvious diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I knew that about Trump. But this was more disturbing. This was outright contempt for Servicemembers. I hardly slept that night.

Some will try to make this political. It isn’t. I love this country and what it stands for so much, it’s visceral. On TDY once, I remember watching other passengers waiting for our flight and thinking how blissfully ignorant they were. And yet, this is why men and women serve: so Americans can live their lives. Although my time in the Army was short, it remains one of the proudest and most defining experiences of my life.

Servicemembers don’t ask for praise because we’re not doing it to be acknowledged. We don’t ask for reward because the pride of serving our country is reward enough. But Veterans do deserve respect for their courage and sacrifice.

So I ask you this: how can someone who not only fails to understand but doesn’t even value the courage and sacrifice of Servicemembers be put in charge of deciding their fate? In interviews and in his book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, General Jim Mattis describes a handwritten card he kept on his desk while serving as CENTCOM Commander at the Pentagon. It asked the following question: “Will this commitment contribute sufficiently to the America people to justify putting our troops in a position to die?”

In contrast, Donald Trump would apparently regard troops as suckers for risking their lives simply to protect the American people, and would regard them as losers if they returned injured or in a body bag.

When asked what is hardest about being President, each talks about the decision to put troops in harms way. Presidents have always understood that the lives of these self-sacrificing men and women were in their hands.

How can the American people ask these brave men and women – moms, dads, brother’s, sisters, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles – to put their lives in the hands of someone who regards their sacrifice essentially as a sucker’s bet? If nothing else disqualifies Donald Trump from retaining the duty of Commander-In-Chief, this does. Servicemembers deserve nothing less.

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Elaine S. Belson, LCSW-C

Elaine Belson has 30 years combined clinical, military, political and teaching experience. She obtained her bachelor's degree in Psychology in 1987 from the University of Maryland at College Park and her master's degree in Social Work in 1993 from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. Ms. Belson has worked in a variety of settings, including private practice, community agencies, and hospitals. She has also taught psychology at the college level and held several legislative positions. Ms. Belson served in the US Army as a Social Work Officer, including a deployment to Afghanistan, from 2008-2010. She was also the Executive Officer (XO) for the Medical Command in Afghanistan. Ms. Belson currently has her own private practice and serves on the School Safety Advisory Council for her county's Board of Education. View all posts by Elaine S. Belson, LCSW-C

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