It’s Veteran’s Day. I lit a candle for peace. I hung the American flag from our front porch. It’s what my dad taught me.
He was the most patriotic man I know and he instilled a deep sense of patriotism in me. I think of him, and feel a heavy mixture of pride, sadness and hope as I unfurl the flag each patriotic holiday and place it in its holder on my porch.
The stars and stripes this morning were a bold symbol of strength against the gray skies, the barren branches, and muted colors of fall. The tree next to the porch is completely stripped of leaves, the perennials beneath withered and returning to the Earth from which they sprung.
I always tear up as I stand back and admire the glory of our flag and all it represents. I think of my dad, his service, and the other brave men and women to whom we owe our way of life. This year, however, was different. I had to retreat back into the house for a full-on cry.
The stars and stripes are usually familiar and comforting, but on this particular Veteran’s Day, with the backdrop of a divided nation reeling from the outcome of the ugliest Presidential campaign we have ever seen, I feel little comfort.
For the first time since my dad died I am grateful he is not here. That’s a terrible thought for a daughter to have, but it’s true. My dad was a proud veteran, a strong defender of children and families, and a gentle soul. I am glad he did not live to see this man become president of our great nation. It would have caused him immense pain, and he suffered enough.
I am glad he was not here these past 18 months to see Trump’s dishonorable displays of bigotry, religious intolerance, sexism, misogyny, racism, and malicious mocking of a disabled person. His inexperience, lack of knowledge, disregard for learning, disrespect for press freedoms, inability to focus, Twitter and debate tantrums, lies, drawn-out conspiracy theories, marital infidelities, multiple bankruptcies, pettiness and childish rants would have horrified him. They did many of us, too, but apparently not enough. How did such a man win the votes, and even the hearts, of so many? I am distraught.
As I reflect on this Veteran’s Day three days after the election, I think of Trump’s treatment of the military, and thank God my dad was not here to witness that either. It would have killed him when:
- Trump said Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam Veteran who was shot down over Hanoi and held as a POW for five years, is not a war hero because he got captured. Trump “likes people who weren’t captured.”
- Trump said he always “felt” that he was in the military because we went to a military boarding school. His wealthy parents sent him because of his bad behavior. Tell me, did it “feel” like the POW camp McCain was in? How about the foxhole from which my dad fought the VietCong? Did it “feel” like that?
- Trump picked a fight with a Gold Star family, Khirz and Ghazala Khan, who lost their son, Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died in 2004 while fending off a suicide bomb attack in Iraq. He insulted them on Twitter, and their Muslim religion.
- Trump received five deferments from Vietnam, four for college and one for bone spurs. I call bullshit.
- It appears Trump does not pay federal income taxes, which means he — a billionaire — does not pay his fair share into the system that supports our troops.
- Trump lied about charitable contributions to veteran’s groups.
- A veteran and Trump supporter offered the candidate his Purple Heart — the medal earned for injuries in battle — at a rally this summer. Trump told the veteran, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.” Then he pocketed it. While I respect the veteran who gave it to him and his choice, I also wonder what happened when Trump left the stage. Does he even know where that medal is now? The cavalier way in which he accepted it makes me think not.
- Trump compared his successes in business to the sacrifices our soldier’s make. “I think I made a lot of sacrifices, built great structures, I’ve had tremendous success.”
On this Veteran’s Day, I would like to remind Trump what a vet looks like, what a Purple Heart recipient looks like, and what true sacrifice looks like. It looks like my dad.
My flag hung proudly all day. My peace candle, which I usually blow out after a moment of silence and reflection, burned all day, too.
I will not extinguish it.
I lit a candle for peace, Dad. I lit it for you, and the hope that our great nation can endure this dark path we have set upon.