Let me say this as simply and as emphatically as I possibly can. And let there be no mistaking the emotion and sincerity of this simple and direct message:
Stop using our troops and fallen heroes to advance your political agendas. It is wrong, disrespectful, and disgusting. This applies to everyone, regardless of where your views may place you along the political spectrum.
Our armed forces are one of the crown jewels of this nation. The brave men and women who serve this country come from all races, religions, backgrounds and places. They signed up to protect us, and all they ask for in return is support, financial and otherwise. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, given the measure of devotion they contribute.
When we insert our fighting men and women into our political battles, we do not help them. We undermine the very real and important role they play in keeping this country free and safe. It is even less honest and more wrong than those who criticize soldiers and the military for their own purposes. At least they aren’t pretending.
Using our military men and women as political pawns has reached a sad peak in recent days. Starting with the national anthem controversy and concluding with the recent discussions over how Presidents notify the families of fallen soldiers. We are unfairly making military personnel the object of political bickering, rather than simply admiring and appreciating them for what they do.
When NFL players began kneeling during the anthem, it had nothing to do with soldiers or the military – absolutely nothing. The people doing it clearly said that. It is understandable that many did not see it the same way, but the undeniable truth is demonstrations like that were in no way aimed at our armed forces.
But President Trump and others found it convenient to make it appear they did. They made it about our military men and women. They lit a fire under the controversy and stuck those extraordinary people in the middle of a fight they did not deserve to be in. And most of them did it to earn a political advantage in totally unconnected battles.
Then came the issue of how Gold Star families are notified when their family members are killed. President Trump faced criticism when he took more than 12 days to personally communicate with the families of the four heroes who lost their lives in Niger. Then he faced even more criticism for what he allegedly said to one of the widows.
On top of that, President Trump felt it necessary to accuse previous presidents (from both parties) of not calling or reaching out to Gold Star families. That prompted an avalanche of political accusations, all while these poor families are still grieving.
This is just wrong – on all sides.
When our President is so egotistical as to have to use dead soldiers and their families in political issues, we have a serious problem. And when those so eager to discredit said President do exactly the same thing in reverse, they are just as bad.
These are emotional topics, and a lot of people are guilty of sometimes cashing in on one for reasons not directly connected. I know I have done it, and when I did – I was wrong. Maybe that’s a phrase both the President and some of his critics could try and learn: I was wrong.
The White House Chief of Staff got dragged into this, himself a Gold Star father. He wound up gratuitously insulting and inaccurately attacking a Congresswomen who had previously criticized the President for his remarks to a soldier’s family. Then the President kept the politics of the issue going via Twitter on the very day of Sgt. La David Johnson’s funeral.
The focus here should have been the tragic deaths of four American servicemen. Their names are Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson. They and their families deserve better than what their country has given them thus far.
Whether the criticism over the handling of this is legitimate or not, these men and their families have been dishonored. And that is very wrong.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be reached at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.