Trump made veterans and the military a major part of his election.
Affirming on the campaign trail that he was going to “strengthen the military so that it’s so big and so strong and so great" that “nobody’s going to mess with us.” On the VA, he states he will “fire the corrupt and incompetent leaders of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and dramatically reform the agency." Trump won the military and veteran vote by a wide margin.
Trump needs continued support more than ever now that recent polls show that most agree with Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. Will the damaging testimony about the president by a decorated Army officer, a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, waiver military and veteran support that is vital to his political survival?
According to recent news articles, Trump’s popularity with veterans and the military is waning. Reasons for weakening support include the ongoing impeachment inquiry, attacks on a Gold Star family, UCMJ interference, hurried withdraw from Syria and concerns of VA privatization.
“Officers up and down the ranks, as well as several present civilian Pentagon employees” expressed alarm about the president in a recent Atlantic article. A story by MSNBC says that “troops have reacted viscerally in interviews and on social media” about the president. In a Washington Post article, it was reported that when asked about Trump’s Syria decision, an Army officer responded that with the stopping of the ISIS mission, “ISIS is going to have a resurgence, and we’re going to have to go back.”
In his new book “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Serve Your Country,” former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin writes about the anarchy in the Trump administration and how veterans are being negatively impacted by the administrations dysfunction. Shulkin writes about efforts to privatize the VA by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, which according to Shulkin could damage veteran’s access to medical care. Shulkin states that privatizing the VA could also lead to the weakening of recruitment and retention of our all-volunteer military for fear of inadequate long-term medical care. Shulkin writes: “I was pushed out of the VA because of a partisan desire to get rid of me and any other obstacle standing in the way to privatize the VA.” According to Military Times “nearly everyone in the veteran’s community and on Capitol Hill is against privatizing VA.” In another story, NBC News highlights combat veteran and former VA counselor’s concerns that recent “productivity pressure on counselors who treat veterans for mental health issues like PTSD is hurting the quality of care” that veterans receive today. Suicide kills 22 veterans a day, or one every 65 mins.
A Stars and Strips article states that “a majority of veterans surveyed recently said they support President Donald Trump as leader of the armed forces, though some of them question his ability to make the right decision when using military force and nuclear weapons,” according to a Pew Research Center poll.
I am a combat veteran who has had the honor to serve in some of our country’s finest military units. I know firsthand the importance of allied indigenous forces when forward deployed in battle. Trust in our word and the military assistance our country provides often means life or death for our partners. Trump’s actions adversely impact matters of war and peace. Service members put their lives at risk for country and mission with the belief that our leader’s foreign policy decisions are honorable, well thought out and in the country’s best interest.
Veteran and military support was key to Trump’s election and will remain critical to his political existence. Trump’s destructive and impulsive actions test our system of checks and balances to its limit. As the impeachment inquiry moves ahead, we all must ask: Is it acceptable for Trump and future presidents to bribe another country’s leader for personal political benefit? Does extorting foreign powers make our warfighters safer when forward positioned in combat?
It remains to be seen if truthful, concise and explosive testimony about the president’s illegal activities will erode veteran and military backing that is key to Trump’s political existences. The future will tell if independently minded current and past service members will come to the realization that Trump is bad for country… allowing the rule of law to triumph.
Scott W. Patton is a member of a Gold Star family and combat veteran that served in the 101st Airborne Division, 82nd Airborne Division, 5th Special Forces Group and 19th Special Forces Group. Scott is a real estate developer that lives with his wife and son in Columbus, Ohio.
Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org.