Category Archives: military news

Trump tosses truth into the crapper

Donald John “Liar in Chief” Trump’s disdain for the truth has taken an amazing new turn — if that is possible.

He came out of his summit with North Korean dictator/despot Kim Jong Un and declared how “thousands” of parents of missing Korean War veterans begged him to get their remains returned to the United States for proper burial.

The president then said it again today in an extraordinary — and bizarre — media “availability” at the White House.

Let’s back it up a bit, shall we?

The Korean War ceasefire took effect in 1953. That was 65 years ago. A warrior who was lost at the very end of the Korean War might be, oh, 83 to 85 years of age today, if not older. His parents? Let’s see, they would be at minimum 100 years of age, presuming Mom gave birth to her son when she was around 18 years old.

The likelihood is that these parents of missing Korean War vets who begged Donald Trump to do something about their sons’  remains would be much older. Maybe about 120 years of age.

Thus, for the president to say that “thousands” of these parents came to the presidential candidate — who then became president — to seek the return of their remains is an … outright, bald-faced lie.

He is lying in a manner few of us have ever seen in a public official, let alone in the president of the United States.

I gave up a while ago griping about Donald Trump’s penchant for tweeting policy statements. I cannot let pass this individual’s continuing to lie directly to the people he was elected to serve.

Saluting is back in the news

Whether to salute is back in the news.

Donald Trump was recorded saluting a North Korean general in what appears to be an awkward, unscripted moment. The president extended his hand, the general saluted him, the president then returned the salute.

It looked clumsy.

This mini-kerfuffle does bring to mind a discussion that emerges from time to time: Does a president return salutes from military personnel? Should he do so?

Recent presidents have done so. It’s appropriate, given their role as commander in chief. Presidents Obama, Bush (43) and Clinton all did it; so did President Reagan. Bill Clinton, as I recall, needed some schooling on how to salute, given that his initial efforts looked a bit, well, clumsy as well. Active-duty military personnel and veterans picked up on it right away.

Donald Trump’s return of these salutes look just fine to me. He snaps it properly. Perhaps he learned how to salute during his years in military school prior to heading off to college.

I like watching presidents return these salutes, as long as they know what they’re doing when they snap them back at military personnel who initiate them.

As for the current president’s clumsy moment in Singapore, it’s no big deal.

Americans, Canadians: comrades in arms

I stumbled across an article that, given the current state of trade tensions between the United States and Canada, piqued my interest more than it would have normally.

Moreover, the article speaks quite cogently to a point that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made about how Canadians and Americans have died on battlefields together while fighting a common enemy; thus, the “national security threat” accusation leveled by Donald J. Trump seems all the more preposterous.

The article appears in “Vietnam,” a magazine I’ve been reading for the past few years. It’s titled “Oh, Canadians,” is written by Canadian historian Bob Gordon and it tells the story of how Canadians came to the United States to join the fight against the communists during the Vietnam War. Yes, it recalls how thousands of Americans fled to Canada to avoid being inducted into the armed forces during that terrible time of division, but it speaks as well to the sacrifice that many Canadians made because they wanted to get into the fight.

One of them, U.S. Army Sgt. Peter Lemon, in 1970 earned the Medal of Honor for his heroic service in defense of the United States of America.

The Canadian government remained officially neutral during the war. Many of its citizens were not nearly so reticent. They felt called to duty to aid their comrades in arms across the common border the nations share.

They have erected a memorial in Windsor, Ontario — The North Wall — to honor the Canadians who were killed or who are missing in action from the Vietnam War.

I mention this article today because of the stupidity of the notion expressed by Donald Trump that Canada represents a threat to our national security over their trade practices. He has imposed stiff tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, a decision that has alarmed and outraged not just our Canadian allies, but also our trading partners in Europe and Mexico.

Justin Trudeau finds that assertion “insulting” to the memory of those who have paid the ultimate price in defense of the United States of America.

Those who died in Vietnam on behalf of their American neighbors are among those to whom Prime Minister Trudeau is referring.

God bless them all.

74 years later, D-Day still stands alone

The Greatest Generation generally is defined as millions of American men and women who stood firm against tyranny during an intense, bloody and desperate global conflict.

Meaning no disrespect to those Americans who answered the call for freedom, let me suggest that the Greatest Generation comprised men and women from around the globe.

Seventy-four years ago today, American soldiers — along with Canadian and British comrades in arms — splashed ashore at Normandy, France. They had just completed a harrowing journey across the English Channel to pierce Adolf Hitler’s Fortress Europa.

These brave men endured unspeakable horror. They faced a determined enemy intent on keeping the land they had conquered four years earlier.

The D-Day invasion today stands as the greatest amphibious assault in the history of warfare. Five thousand ships supported the attack. Hundreds of airplanes flew sorties over the Nazi defenses.

What often gets short shrift, though, is the composition of the entire attack force. It was made up of French fighters and Poles. They formed gallant military units after their own countries fell to the Nazi juggernaut. Other nations took part: Denmark, Greece, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand all participated in this mammoth endeavor.

What’s more, French, Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian resistance fighters never stopped battling the occupiers in the years preceding the launching of Operation Overlord.

It was an international event of the first order.

And I cannot dismiss the bloody fight that was occurring along the Eastern Front as the Red Army marched from the Soviet Union, into Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany as it sought to rid the world of the tyrant Hitler and his minions.

One final note I want to make: Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was prepared for the worst on D-Day. He drafted an announcement that he never had to make. He would take full responsibility for the failure of the invasion had the international force been unable to secure the beachhead at Normandy.

That, dear reader, is true leadership.

The Greatest Generation, comprising fighters from many nations, ensured success in the weeks and months that followed the titanic assault against the forces of evil.

We owe all of them an eternal debt of thanks.

Trump demonstrates unfitness constantly

Donald J. Trump’s idiotic tweet on Memorial Day has provided critics — such as yours truly — with ample grist to suggest what many of us have said all along.

Not a single thing in Trump’s background prepared him for the public service career he chose the moment he rode down that Trump Tower escalator to declare his presidential candidacy in 2015.

The president took to Twitter to say the following:

Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!

As Chris Cilliza of CNN reported, Trump — with that message — managed to “put the ‘me’ in Memorial Day.”

I have noted repeatedly on this blog that Trump’s entire professional career, every waking moment of it, was centered on one thing: himself. He sought to build a business empire. He aspired to immense wealth. He sought self-enrichment. He lavished self-aggrandizement all over himself. He surrounded himself with opulence, glitz, glamor and gorgeous women.

Nothing he did, said or demonstrated during all those years offered even a hint of understanding of what it means to serve others. He was — and still is — wrapped tightly in his own cocoon of self-worth.

Thus, the tweet in which he boasted about the economy and “rebuilding our Military and so much more” speaks volumes about why this man is so hideously unfit for the office to which he was elected.

Yes, the president did go to Arlington National Cemetery and he spoke some fitting words while paying tribute to the Americans who have died on battlefields all across this and around the world.

However, it’s that first instinct, the president’s Twitter message that went out at early in the day, that reveals this individual’s love of self that supersedes everything — and everyone — else.

Public service means to pay tribute to others without regard to yourself. Those who choose a life in politics and government ought to understand that basic tenet. If only the president of the United States could grasp the simplicity of that concept.

America falls back in love with its veterans … thank you

Grave sites are going to be decorated with flowers. Americans will flock to cemeteries to pay their respects to their loved ones.

These are special loved ones, though. They are Americans who died in battle. They died protecting the rest of us. They gave their “last full measure of devotion” to the nation they loved.

We set aside this time each year to pay tribute to these Americans. It’s Memorial Day, everyone!

It’s no secret that not that long ago, Americans didn’t always respond with love and affection for its veterans, let alone those who fell in battle. Just a couple of generations back, American servicemen and women returned home from Vietnam. At the very least they were greeted with what I have defined as raging indifference; the worst of those times came in the form of outright rage at young Americans who did their duty by fighting halfway around the world.

You’ve heard the stories about spitting on returning servicemen. Perhaps you were a party — in one form or another — to that kind of shameful conduct.

Those who didn’t make it home from the Vietnam War? Well, we didn’t honor their sacrifice — or the pain and grief their loved ones endured — with anything approaching the kind of love that pours forth today.

I am glad to see the nation’s attitude change. I am gratified at the maturing that occurred in this country. We weren’t used to armed conflicts ending the way the Vietnam War did, nor were we used to the domestic tumult and turmoil that preceded the end of hostilities.

Thousands more young Americans have given their lives since those dark days. These days we honor them, just as we give thanks to those who have come home, those who returned to their lives on the “outside.”

That’s how it should be. It is how it always should have been.

Memorial Day is the time we call extra attention to those grave sites and the names inscribed on them. They represent the best of a great country. We honor them.

We should thank them daily for the sacrifice they have made to keep the rest of us free.

It’s ‘Secretary,’ not ‘General’ Mattis, Mr. President

I’ve made this point already, but I feel the need to restate it.

Donald J. Trump once again referred to the secretary of defense as “Gen. Mattis.” Yes, James “Mad Dog” Mattis — one of my favorite Trump Cabinet appointees — is a retired Marine Corps general. He’s got four stars on his epaulets.

But that was then. Today, the here and now, Mad Dog Mattis is a civilian, just like the president is a civilian.

Trump’s reference to “Gen. Mattis” came as he was announcing his decision to sh**can the planned June 12 summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. The president, naturally, followed that reference with a statement that the U.S. military is the strongest in the world and that it is ready to act if the need arises.

Oh, brother, man!

Mr. President, we assign these Cabinet posts to civilians. It’s a time-honored tradition that civilians control the military. President Truman had to remind Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur of that fact when he relieved him of his Korean War command in the early 1950s.

I know it’s a semantics issue. It just bothers the daylights out of me that the commander in chief cannot honor the long-standing tradition of the office with a simple reference to the defense boss as “Secretary” James Mattis.

Get with the program, Mr. President.

Trump gets it right — apparently — with new VA pick

How about this?

Donald J. Trump has nominated a proven administrator to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Yep, Robert Wilkie is the acting VA secretary who’s been filling in since the firing of David Shulkin in March over Shulkin’s expensive travel habits.

The president turned first to the White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, to lead the VA. This, despite Dr. Jackson’s lack of administrative experience. Then came allegations of some bad behavior: hostile workplace, over-prescribing of medicine and — oops! — drinking on the job.

Out went Jackson.

Now the president has selected Wilkie. Man, I hope he sails through the U.S. Senate confirmation process and is able to assume the role formally that he has been performing for the past three months.

Let’s not just yet put this nomination in the bank. Trump’s inability to vet these nominees has gotten him into trouble.

The president didn’t vet Jackson’s past adequately before nominating him to lead the VA.

The VA is a huge federal agency that needs an experienced hand to lead it. The agency also needs someone who is clean, ethical, sharp and has the veterans’ issues at the top of his mind at all times.

I am one of those 20 million veterans who is enrolled in the agency’s medical care program. Therefore, I demand a careful selection process when choosing a veterans affairs secretary.

Meanwhile, I will hope Robert Wilkie is the right man for the job. It’s good that senators on both sides of the aisle are much more enthusiastic about Wilkie than they were about Jackson.

My first benchmark for the correctness of this selection is whether Wilkie will reject the notion of privatizing VA functions.

Do not go there. Ever!

Thank you for the expressions of gratitude

I was sitting with my wife, granddaughter and her parents this evening in a burger joint in Allen, Texas.

A little girl, about maybe 10 or 11 years of age, stood by the end of the table where I was sitting. She waited for me to finish saying something to my family members.

Then she said, “I want to thank you for your service in the Army.”

I was taken aback. To be candid, I was moved almost to tears, as I did swallow hard for a moment.

I had worn a ballcap to the restaurant. It said “Army” with the words “Vietnam Veteran.” You’ve seen hats like it, I’m sure. They feature the ribbons all ‘Nam vets get when they served during that terrible conflict.

What I got tonight was a demonstration of respect that (a) I didn’t get when I returned home from the U.S. Army in 1970 or (b) I never thought of extending to a military veteran when I was that little girl’s age.

She stood at the end of the table with a woman who I’ll presume is her mother. Maybe Mom told her to say what she said; maybe the little girl thought of it all by herself. It doesn’t matter one little bit to me as I write this brief blog post.

What we witnessed this evening is an ongoing sense of appreciation that our nation is expressing to those who have worn a military uniform. It seems to have had its birth during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Communities across the nation welcomed those fighting Americans home with parades and salutes after their stunning victory in Kuwait. I witnessed one of those parades in Beaumont, Texas, and I saluted a flatbed trailer carrying a group of Vietnam vets who got their share of love from the crowd gathered along the parade route.

Who led the cheers for the Gulf War heroes? Vietnam War vets who weren’t shown that kind of affection when they returned home from that earlier war.

A little girl made my day. She made me swallow mighty hard for just a moment or two.

This old veteran thanks her — and all those who continue to thank me for my service.

Good news: Osama bin Laden is still dead

I have been grappling emotionally with how I should approach the crux of this next blog post.

I’ll start with the positive aspect first. Seven years ago today, a group of Navy SEALs, along with CIA operatives flew into Pakistan under the darkness of a moonless night. They departed their helicopters and killed Osama bin Laden, the world’s most notorious international terrorist — and the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on New  York and Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama issued the order after examining months of intelligence-gathering. Our anti-terror effort found bin Laden in a compound in Abbattobad, Pakistan. The president then issued the order to take bin Laden out.

The team performed flawlessly. There were no casualties on our side of the fight.

The president made a gutsy call and to his great credit, praised the work of our nation’s anti-terrorist efforts that began during President George W. Bush’s administration.

The SEAL team delivered justice to Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. It could have gone badly, causing the president irreparable political harm.

***

Then a curious development arose not long after bin Laden’s death. One of the SEAL team members, Robert O’Neill, stepped forward to take credit for firing the shots that killed the despicable terrorist.

O’Neill’s public pronouncement drew immediate criticism from others in the military, notably those who serve in special forces such as the Army Green Berets, other SEALs and Air Force rescue commandos. They said O’Neill violated a code among those who serve in this high-risk, high-danger form of military service. That code is designed to protect the identities of those who actually pull the trigger on fatal shots. The Marine Corps calls it “espirit de corps,” or “spirit of the group.” No single team member should stand above or in front of the rest of the members of his team.

O’Neill violated that code by speaking out.

But now he’s coming to Amarillo later this month to speak at a public event designed to honor our nation’s veterans.

I am torn over this. O’Neill’s service as a SEAL deserves a nation’s eternal gratitude. I just wish organizers of the Amarillo event could have found a keynote speaker who hadn’t violated a code that aims to prevent our elite fighters from seeking individual glory.