On Monday, I’ll be standing at the Winters Cemetery, as I have for decades, listening to tributes about the women and men in our armed forces who sacrificed their lives for the greater good of all. The Boy Scouts will raise the American Flag, and the Girl Scouts will lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Someone will place a wreath upon our memorial statue in memory of a deceased soldier. The service will conclude as it always does: with a military rifle salute and the playing of “Taps” on a bugle.
If the sound of the rifles doesn’t ricochet through your soul, and “Taps” doesn’t make all the hair on your arms quiver and cause a choking ache in your throat, you probably don’t have a loved one buried in a cemetery with a little American flag waving over it on Memorial Day.
My dad wasn’t killed in World War II, but he was destroyed by it. Before the diagnosis of “PTSD” arrived in the 1990s, the constellations of behaviors suffered by so many veterans whose bodies survived the war but whose minds were forever shattered was often conveniently labeled “alcoholism,” which the VA viewed as a personal problem and not something they were responsible for treating. In the 1970s, my dad had to battle the VA to get medical treatment — literally adding insult to injury.
Although “PTSD” is now fully acknowledged as a real thing, the individual battles for post-war medical care continues. Our veterans deserve top-notch medical and psychological care, however, the VA is hopelessly congested and veterans are actually dying waiting for medical care. The VA is aware of this, but either can’t or won’t deal with it. Consider the astounding insult uttered by Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald on May 23, when he likened waiting for care at VA hospitals to waiting in line at Disneyland.
“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” McDonald said last week.
Is your jaw hanging down? Mine is.
Will somebody please fire this guy? And maybe the entire VA administrative staff? The way our veterans are treated is reprehensible. Caring for our veterans is the price we pay for war and national security, and whatever it costs, we need to shut up and pay the bill. Ditto for our military, because our safety depends on their safety, and if you doubt the significance of a strong military, consider that you aren’t speaking German right now. There isn’t one single American who hasn’t benefitted from those who dedicated their lives to military service.
Our military, and the job it performs, is serious stuff. Deadly serious. The responsibility for the safety, health and wellbeing of every service man and woman ultimately falls into the hands of whoever sits in the Oval Office.
“Commander in Chief” is not just a really cool title for the President. The President is the ultimate commander of our armed forces. Therefore, the character of the person who steps into that position matters. The life of every soldier, and ultimately our own, depends upon solid, well-informed, steady, rational judgment. That person must have a clear, sharp, unflappable mind to command our military and to be given control of our nuclear weapons.
That person is not Donald Trump.
Sure, a groundswell of well-deserved anger and frustration has propelled Trump to the top of the Republican ticket. People are fed up. I get it. Electing Trump is a revolutionary war without any bloodshed. It feels really gratifying to give a Trump-shaped middle finger to our pathetically dysfunctional Congress. But we owe more to our soldiers and veterans than to indulge in such gratification.
With the emotional maturity of a 7-year-old, with his endless stream of childish, simplistic, inflammatory outbursts, Tweeting away like a crazed adolescent, do you honestly believe in your heart of hearts that this man-toddler has the character to be Commander in Chief? If you do… are you willing to place your son’s or daughter’s life in his hands? That’s what we ask of military families every day. Based upon the stunningly outrageous behavior we’ve witnessed thus far, do you honestly trust Trump to make careful, rational, well-planned military decisions? If you answered “yes,” I doubt you’ve ever stood over a loved one’s grave on Memorial Day and watched a little American flag flutter quietly in the breeze.
If you’re one of the lucky ones whose life hasn’t been personally touched by the aftermath of war, consider showing up a little late to the barbecue and visit a veterans’ cemetery on Monday. There’s one close by, right there in Dixon. When you gaze out at the sea of American flags over hundreds of precisely placed graves, and experience the palpable emotional weight of standing in the presence of the magnitude of such immense, selfless sacrifice, it will sink in: Some really did give all. And for each one, there was a Commander in Chief who oversaw the decisions that affected their lives, and their deaths.
For the sacrifices already made and those surely to come, we owe it to our soldiers and veterans to make sure that our military is in capable hands and that those who serve receive the best of care as soon as they need it and for as long as they need it. Consider that in order to become a veteran, one must first survive being a soldier. That survival is directly linked to the competency of our Commander in Chief.
With another Memorial Day upon us, let’s consider the incredible sacrifice we ask of our military, and seriously consider if we can reconcile that reality with the notion of electing Donald Trump president. Me, I wouldn’t trust that bloviated buffoon to walk my dog, let alone command our military. We owe more to our soldiers and veterans than a Donald Trump presidency.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at email@example.com; read more of her work at www.winters express.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com