Congratulations on winning the nomination of the Republican Party. I’ve seen that you are now moving towards courting voters for the November election and I just wanted to write to let you know why you won’t be getting my vote.
First, a word about me. I’m an entrepreneur who regularly works on a number of veteran employment initiatives. I’m a Marine veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served in Iraq. And I’m a resident of New York City, your hometown, and a voter of New York State which you said you think you can win in November. I’m even an avid golfer who has hit the links at some of your courses.
I’m the type of person you said should be a Trump supporter, but I don’t think that any veteran should support you based on what you’ve said and done since announcing you were running for president last year. It’s critical that all veterans take a close look at you and what you stand for. Many of the outrageous statements you’ve made over the last year not only provide us insight into your mindset and desired agenda, but demonstrate what little regard you have for veterans and the national security issues which affect all of us.
Let’s take a closer look:
1. You do not understand veterans or value our service.
Do we need to hear anything more than how you described Senator John McCain, who spent almost six years as a POW in Hanoi after being shot down behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War? You said, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
How can any veteran support someone who says something like that? How can any veteran think that you will ever have our backs or support us when we need it most, when you would not like us if we were captured? Perhaps Senator and Air Force Colonel Lindsey Graham summed it up best when he tweeted, “If there was ever any doubt that @realDonaldTrump should not be our commander in chief, this stupid statement should end all doubt.” He added: “At the heart of [the] @realDonaldTrump statement is a lack of respect for those who have served - a disqualifying characteristic to be president.”
2. You have no problem mocking a reporter who questions you.
Why should we think you would treat wounded warriors like myself any differently? Like many schoolyard bullies, we’ve all seen when challenged on virtually any topic, you quickly resort to personal attacks, shameless accusations and name-calling. We do not do that in the military. Although we may disagree with each other, we are taught very early on to respect each other.
And a good leader is able to justify his positions without resorting to ad hominem attacks. While parents and educators typically discourage this behavior at a very young age, your actions seem to resonate with a certain portion of our country’s population, and therefore you continue unabashed. But we can certainly all agree that you crossed all bounds when you very clearly imitated a handicapped reporter.
What type of person does that? I do not want that kind of person representing me or my nation. As a wounded warrior who has had to deal with very severe physical and mental challenges since being shot in the head in Iraq, your juvenile actions could not offend me more.
As you read this article, is your first response going to be to make fun of the way I look now or laugh at the limitations I face on a daily basis? Would you imitate my military friends who limp due to their prosthetic legs or ridicule wounded warriors who need service dogs to navigate through their “new normal?” Reflecting on your philosophy that you do not like service members who are captured, how do you feel about me and the hundreds of thousands of wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from the visible and invisible wounds of war?
3. We live and breathe integrity. You do not.
Each branch of our military holds integrity in extremely high regard and it is taught from the very first days of boot camp, officer candidate school or at the service academies. When you lie, it says something about your character. As General Peter Pace, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once told me, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” When we fail to tell the truth, the results can be disastrous, and we are punished severely for lying.
You, however, have consistently displayed a shocking lack of integrity and have lied to us over and over again. Certainly every veteran has heard about how you insisted that after 9/11 you saw thousands of people in parts of New Jersey with large Arab populations cheering and celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers. We now know that is patently false and that you quickly resorted to fear-mongering to garner support.
And after you publicly announced that you were skipping a Fox debate in January to hold a veterans’ benefit, the Washington Post recently reported that you finally made those donations four months later only because they and other media outlets pressured you to do so.
4. You embrace world leaders who veterans view as threats to our national security.
It does not take a Ph.D. in political science or crisis intervention to understand that Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi were and are all very dangerous dictators with goals and agendas completely contrary to ours. In fact, both Putin and Kim are considered two of the most dangerous men in the world.
That being said, instead of denouncing all of them, you actually have done quite the opposite. You have repeatedly embraced Putin as a world leader whom you would “get along very well with.” And after Putin praised you as “bright and talented,” you declared that a great honor.
When given the opportunity to comment on Fox News about the ruthless dictator of North Korea, instead of condemning him for growing his nuclear weapon arsenal or starving his own people, you said of Kim, “I mean, it’s amazing that a young guy would go over and take over. So he’s gotta have something going for him, because he kept control, which is amazing for a young person to do.”
In turn, Kim has considered all of the choices in our presidential election and has named you the official candidate of the DPRK. And during CBS’ Face the Nation recently, you bragged that you made a lot of money off of Qaddafi when he needed a place to stay in the U.S.
Would any veteran really want to support the same person who openly endorses Putin and Kim or someone who is proud to have brokered a deal with a vicious dictator? Veterans understand that it is due to the actions of leaders such as Putin, Kim and Qaddafi that we have lost our brothers and sisters in arms. These are not leaders we respect or admire. We know they are our enemies.
5. We celebrate racial diversity and recognize the value of a multi-cultural workplace. You are racist and cannot see past the color of people’s skin.
There is perhaps no more integrated workforce in America than our military. In the 1950s, desegregation in our military served as a significant catalyst to a more integrated nation.
Studies have shown that the armed forces’ social hierarchy –- explicitly based on rank -– overrides many of the racial or gender biases in civilian society, and that promotion outcomes do not differ nearly as much by race/ethnicity as they do in civilian society.
We value this and are proud of it. And nine percent of all living military veterans are U.S.-born children with at least one immigrant parent. Yet, recently and quite publicly, you remarked that U.S. citizen and Indiana-born Judge Gonzalo Curiel's Mexican heritage presents a conflict of interest in his ability to preside over lawsuits related to your Trump University business because you are "building a wall." House Speaker Paul Ryan quickly called your observation “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
What do you think about General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose parents immigrated from Jamaica, or former Army intelligence officer, Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta, whose family immigrated from Italy? And we all remember you launching your presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists.
Do you think the same thing about Alfred Rascon, a Mexican native who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during the Vietnam War? But perhaps you are most known for your proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, although the Pentagon and a wide number of U.S. leaders countered that this would be a direct threat to our national security.
This in fact led to an open letter specifically against you authored by a long list of GOP national security leaders. Your tone and message resonate with white supremacists and you have not only been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan former Grand Wizard David Duke, but a slew of other white supremacist organizations.
I personally do not want to support a person endorsed by authoritarian dictators or leaders in the white supremacist community. Before they pull the proverbial lever this November, I hope that my fellow veterans and the military community at large seriously consider whether they want you determining our national priorities, representing us in front of the world and making critical decisions which affect our national security and commitment to our troops.
This letter is not a blanket statement of my support for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or any other presidential hopeful. It is simply a letter to you, Mr. Trump, letting you know you have lost my vote and you are never getting it back.
Justin Constantine is an inspirational speaker, leadership consultant, entrepreneur and a TED speaker who serves as a liaison between the military and corporate communities. He is the author of the new book “My Battlefield, Your Office,” now available on Amazon. A Presidential Leadership Scholar, Justin also a fellow with the Truman National Security Project. He sits on the board of directors of several national nonprofits, and co-founded the Veteran Success Resource Group. Justin received a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps. To learn more, visit:www.justinconstantine.com. His comments here only reflect his personal views, and not those of any organizations he works with.