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Say 'no' to rhetoric

Veterans have sacrificed a lot for this nation

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I have to admit to a bit of a flare-up of my PTSD while watching our troops' last days in Afghanistan recently, what with my having piloted the last U.S. military helicopter out of Saigon on April 30, 1975. This current event was an instant replay of the American hubris from so long ago.

It made me consider that Veterans Day is not just an opportunity to acknowledge the sacrifices of the men and women who marched boldly into harm's way, but also a time to reflect on the leadership that sends them to the edge of the abyss.

For example, the disgusting, disparaging, and disrespectful diatribe Trump has often directed toward our military reflects the huge difference in Weltanschauung between those of us who have served and have nothing but reverence for those who have fallen, and that cowardly, narcissistic, bone-spurred draft dodger who would dare to call our heroes suckers and losers time and again.

I spent 25 years wearing the uniform. My only son did three combat tours in Iraq and is only just now recovering from the experience. All this, to see my country driven over the cliff by the guy who had his daddy get him out of the draft by giving a cheap lease to some unscrupulous doctor.

The day before Veterans Day in 2018, Trump refused to attend an honoring ceremony at the cemetery adjacent to Belleau Woods, where 1,800 "Devil Dog" Marines died in World War I. A light rain kept him away even though the leaders of France, Germany, and Canada were in attendance, as were Gen. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Besides the disrespect shown, we American taxpayers paid to fly him in Air Force One 3,800 miles so he could get a Veterans Day photo-op there. The list of Trump's disrespectful words and actions toward our service members is long, but he isn't alone, of course.

There is no shortage of über-rich, white, prep-schooled, flag-waving, armchair "patriots"—the Tucker Carlson types of the world, who are tearing our country apart by spewing hate, divisiveness, and disinformation. These same people would laugh out loud at the suggestion that they, or their children, serve in our armed forces. And even if these people aren't all in leadership positions, they strongly influence those who are.

We veterans don't need our fellow citizens to "thank us for our service." We need them to step up and say "no" to the rhetoric and vitriol that divides our nation so that Cpl. McMahon, Lt. Cpl. Judge, Lt. Shea, and Capt. Nystul—my fellow Marines killed during those final two days in Vietnam—will not have died in vain.

Semper fi. Δ

Retired USMC Capt. James Peterson grew up in Grover Beach, graduated from Arroyo Grande High School and Cal Poly, and spent 25 years in the armed forces. Send a response via clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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