Op-Ed: Trump needs to learn how to be compassionate to vets and their families

State Senator James Sanders Jr.


President Trump has put his foot in his mouth plenty of times both before and after his election as Commander-In-Chief. The gaffs have covered a multitude of topics and people including veterans, which is particularly offensive to me as I am a Marine Corps veteran. This week Trump was allegedly at it again according to a Florida congressional representative who went public with a recent conversation she overheard between Trump and a war widow.

Rep. Frederica Wilson told CNN that during a condolence phone call between Trump and Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed during an ambush in West Africa on Oct. 4, and the President stated “he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.” Wilson went so far as to call Trump, “a very sick man.” Trump then took to Twitter to categorically deny that he ever made the remark and said that he had “proof,” to back it up.

However, Trump has not produced any proof but he continues to accuse Wilson of lying. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when the president spoke of proof he was speaking of several of his staffers who were supposedly present during the call and heard what was said. None of those alleged witnesses have come forward. Johnson’s mother who also overheard the phone call said that Wilson’s account was “very accurate.”

In the meantime, if Wilson’s statements are true, it makes Trump seem all the more incapable of feeling human emotion for those who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Indeed, every soldier, every person, deserves better than to be remembered as that man or woman Trump disrespected and had a tweet tantrum about.

Further, Wilson said Johnson’s widow was crying after her phone call with Trump, allegedly stating that Trump didn’t even remember her husband’s name. Trump said of the conversation – “I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman,” demonstrating that he didn’t seem to remember the widow’s name either.

Trump doesn’t understand that he is not a game show host. This is not a reality show where he can say mean things, people will clap, he can just walk away, and the ratings go up. These are real people with real feelings. Trump is just playing cheap politics, and let’s not forget that this is a man who is a draft dodger, someone who asked for a deferment so he wouldn’t have to serve. As a veteran, you want people to know that you didn’t die in vain, that your family is being cared for, and that people recognize your sacrifice.

In his best light, let’s assume that Trump didn’t understand the meaning of his words and that what he said was not what he was feeling in his heart. He just doesn’t know how to talk to people. He doesn’t get it. On behalf of all veterans, we understand that we put our lives on the line when we put on the uniform. We are willing to trade our lives for America to be free. However, we always want to be sensitive and compassionate when we speak to the family members of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It should never be trivialized.

Of the five boroughs, Queens has the largest population of veterans in sheer numbers. Staten Island has the largest share in proportion to borough population. Therefore, Trump’s comments hit close to home and are very hurtful to the service members living in my district. I would like to assure them that I support all of them. I am one of them and I will never forget their service.

More from Around New York