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John Schneck of Bangor represents District 126 in the Maine House of Representatives. He is the House chair on the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs and a U.S. Navy veteran.
During my time in the U.S Naval Reserve during the Vietnam War, I served alongside some of the most honorable people I’ve ever met. We were all brought together by a common purpose: To defend the nation where we grew up and the values that we believed in. In the course of defending that nation and those values, many of those I knew ended up making the ultimate sacrifice: Their lives.
Any real leader in America’s armed forces knows that their highest obligation, above all else, is to honor those who gave their lives in service of this country. That’s why I was so appalled when I heard that President Donald Trump had referred to those who we have lost at war as “losers” and “suckers.”
These comments from anyone are disgusting. From our nation’s president, they are downright un-American. They demonstrate a fact that we have known for quite some time: Trump is unfit to be our nation’s commander in chief.
On the list of a president’s most serious priorities, being a trusted leader for our troops is near the top. In order to do their jobs well, our soldiers need to know that leadership at all levels has their back. That means that for our military to succeed, the more than one million Americans in uniform require a leader who is strong, compassionate and trustworthy — someone with whom they’d be comfortable with in a foxhole.
Trump is not that person.
Mocking brave Americans who have sacrificed life and limb in defense of our freedoms as “losers” or “suckers” doesn’t demonstrate strength. It doesn’t demonstrate compassion. And it certainly doesn’t demonstrate the trustworthiness that soldiers need to see from their commander in chief.
Trump has spent his presidency wrapping himself in the American flag. Yet, when it comes to actually supporting our troops, he has failed in the worst possible way. He has no real respect for those who have given everything for our country, and in addition to these recent comments, has a long history of disparaging those who have served.
Take, for example, Trump’s obsession with denigrating the late Sen. John McCain. McCain is a true American hero who faced unthinkable suffering in defense of the United States. Yet according to Trump, McCain is “not a war hero” because he was captured during the Vietnam War. When I hear those comments, I begin to wonder what Trump might say about me if I were to have been captured or killed while serving in the line of duty. Our troops need someone who honors them for the sacrifices they are making. This president doesn’t honor our troops — he shames them.
Perhaps even more shocking than Trump’s shaming of fallen troops has been how Republicans in Congress have refused to denounce him for it. I have been particularly offended by the silence of our own senator, Susan Collins. In 2016, Collins publicly said she could not support Trump’s candidacy, and cited his attacks on McCain and Gold Star families as a justification. Yet four years later, she refuses to even tell us whether she believes Trump deserves a second term as commander in chief, let alone whether she disagrees with his disgusting attacks on our troops.
Trump, Collins, and the Republican Party want Americans to believe that they are the real patriots. In reality, Trump is open about his disrespect for those who fight for our country, and Collins and her Republican colleagues have refused to hold him accountable.
America’s armed forces deserve a commander in chief who knows and respects the sacrifices they make for the country that they love. That’s why I will be voting for Joe Biden. Biden knows the heart-wrenching feeling of sending a child off to war, and believes that honoring Americans in uniform is a sacred obligation. I know that Biden will be the strong, compassionate and trustworthy leader that our troops desperately need.