Editorials

In KC visit Tuesday, President Trump should listen to veterans — not just talk to them

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump The Associated Press

President Donald Trump will visit Kansas City Tuesday to speak to the 119th national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The president should take this opportunity to do something he’s not known for, and that’s to listen — and we mean really listen — to some of the heroes who will be on hand to hear him. They surely will have something to say to him about the realities of war and the horrors of combat.

Those insights would be good for Trump to hear now as he continues to rattle his saber at foes around the globe. Late Sunday night, of course, he fired off his all-caps tweet aimed at the Iranian regime.

“NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump wrote.

In diplomatic parlance, that surely qualifies as an escalation of tensions.

Trump also has engaged in rhetorical combat with North Korea, referring to that nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as a “little rocket man” while Kim has referred to Trump as a “dotard.”

Unnerving, it is.

And yet, Trump never served in the military. In 1968 as the Vietnam War intensified, the president was described as the picture of health. But after graduating from college that year, making him eligible to be drafted, Trump received a diagnosis from a doctor that halted his entry into the service. He had bone spurs in his heels.

That resulted in him receiving a coveted 1-Y medical deferment. That turned out to be one of five deferments Trump received during the Vietnam conflict, with education serving as the reason for the others.

Just like other recent presidents, including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Trump knows little about the realities of war. It goes without saying that he should know exactly what it means to be a solider.

He could chat up any number of veterans in the crowd Tuesday. The VFW is, after all, the largest veterans service organization in the country. And some 10,000 VFW and VFW Auxiliary delegates are expected at the Kansas City Convention Center.

We recommend that he visit with LeRoy Tyler Jr. of Kansas City who was quick to launch into the story of what he saw on his first day in Vietnam in 1968.

“We got a rocket attack, and a guy got it in the back,” he said. “That was the first time I saw blood jumping out of somebody like that. I was ready to go home.”

Tyler can also tell you about what it’s like to see someone take a bullet. “It ain’t like it is on TV,” he said. “People are screaming bloody murder, just screaming. Loud. It sends a chill up and down your spine. I knew I didn’t want to get hit.”

Tyler can recall what it’s like to go 30 days at a time without clean clothes and can describe the sound of bullets whistling overhead so fast that they break the sound barrier and crackle. He understands terror on a level that few of us, fortunately, ever will.

Trump needs to hear those stories, and he can’t hear them often enough. All presidents do, but especially this one. Trump has a well-deserved reputation for acting before thinking. Stories like the ones Tyler can tell will stick with the president. They need to.

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