Donald Trump loves the troops. He thinks they're great. Really he does. He's made supporting the military a major part of his presidential campaign. He's even donated money to veterans organizations, months after bragging about having already done so.
Yes, Donald Trump loves the troops. And there's evidence to suggest that many of them love him right back. Many, but not all.
Over the course of this election cycle, members of the U.S. Armed Services have publicly spoken out against Trump and his history of hateful rhetoric. And while they may be in the minority when compared to their military peers, these messages carry a particular significance given the presumptive GOP nominee's troop-centric posturing.
Speaking at a protest outside of Trump Tower earlier this week, Perry O’Brien, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, lambasted Trump's military messaging in light of reports the candidate gave money to veterans groups only after his claims of having previously done so were called into question.
"When I served in Afghanistan," explains O'Brien in footage captured by CNN, "I served with women, I served with Muslims, and I served with Latinos. All groups that Donald Trump has maligned or even threatened. All of those folks actually donned the uniform. They actually served the country.
"As far as we can see as veterans in the military community," he continues, "Donald Trump only seems interested in serving himself."
It's a sentiment that was put firmly on display during a Trump event Florida this past February. There, members of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War were ejected after raising a banner reading "Mr. Trump: Veterans are not props for hate. We stand with our Muslim sisters and brothers."
That feeling of umbrage is shared by national-security expert and former U.S. Air Force officer John Noonan. In a scathing essay for the conservative magazine National Review, Noonan writes:
America’s veterans aren’t dopes. Most recognize a cheap political stunt when they see it. Debates scare Trump silly. So he wears veterans’ service like Kevlar, hoping the nobility of their sacrifice can shield him from the hostility of tough questions. It’s not unexpected behavior from a man who, to judge from his multiple draft deferments, has proven more than happy to let others do the fighting for him.
Earlier this year, PJ Rieckhff, a former Army officer and CEO of the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweeted that his organization would not accept any donations from an upcoming Trump event.
In the highest echelons of national security, there are lingering questions as to whether troops would obey orders from Trump, were he to actually become the commander in chief. Former NSA and CIA chief and Air Force General Michael Hayden explained in an interview with Bill Maher that he "would be incredibly concerned if a President Trump governed in a way that was consistent with the language that Candidate Trump expressed during the campaign." He later added that troops are "required not to follow an unlawful order."
And on forums across the internet, military personnel have voiced their displeasure with the hotel mogul.
Writes one on Quora:
I am loath to support a man who is actively seeking to destroy the very freedoms that I was asked to defend.
Donald Trump has actively sought to undermine the First Amendment.
He began his campaign with rants against anchor babies, attacking the Fourteenth Amendment.
He has promised to give orders to our military that even he admitted could be illegal, thus opening up service members to war crimes charges.
So, as a result, this veteran will never support that racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue.
But, sadly the American people have the right to decide whether to vote for him regardless of these facts…that too is a freedom I was asked to defend.
In the same conversation, another user, who identifies himself as a Vietnam-era vet who served in Korea, adds: "I think Trump is the bizarre result of a bizarre society that is cursed with much more wealth than wisdom."
In a different thread, this time in response to a question about what veterans do like about Trump, a U.S. Navy veteran writes:
I'm astounded that a bellicose elitist with so many obvious character faults has any backing as a leader in the political ring. I can't see how he would garner more support from military members than he could from any other weird demographic he's surprising pundits with.
Will the ongoing revelations regarding Trump's donations to veterans groups, and the steady drum-beat of anti-Trump messages from past and present members of the armed services actually hurt his campaign? We'll see in November.