What was it that motivated Donald Trump to disparage John McCain's war record and question his level of heroism?
Was it self-aggrandizing hubris? Or stupidity about the real nature of military service (of course, Trump never served in the military of the U.S., having received a number of deferments)? Perhaps it was his view that the government is not managing the "business" of the military and he could do a better job if he became president?
Actually, it may not matter what motivated his insensitive and vitriolic remarks, as the bigger picture is more important and serious than his foolishness. In the end, Trump may have shone a light and caused attention to be focused on the needs of our military members.
The reality is that there are more than 50,000 veterans who are homeless and another 1.4 million who are at risk of being homeless on any given night in America. And the fastest growing segment of the homeless veteran population is women.
The reality is that one year after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital scandal erupted, the waiting lists of one month or more are now 50 percent higher, despite millions of dollars being poured into the system. The reality is that according to a recently released report (July 13, 2015), nearly one-third of 847,000 veterans with pending applications for VA health care have died.
The reality is that while the number has been decreasing, as recently as a few months ago, there were still more suicides per day among veterans stateside than deaths in active combat overseas (22 per day).
The reality is that between 20-30 percent of our returning veterans suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder, often so debilitating that they are unable to work, function comfortably in their homes and suffer terribly from memories and experiences sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The reality is that the level of 'reported' military sexual trauma experienced by our nation's active duty servicewomen is approximately 15 percent, according to Paula Caplan. And that number is a gross underestimate; our women service members are loath to report their commanders, and those in higher positions for fear of reprisal.
And the reality is that thousands of combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have sustained traumatic brain injury. Many of the brain injuries create permanent disabling conditions requiring life-long care and supervision for those who survive. And what of those who were wounded, have lost limbs and also need continuous care?
As we scale down our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as more and more of our service members return with no expectations of redeployment, the needs of our returnees and the families will continue to escalate at a geometric rate. If Mr. Trump's tantrum about Senator McCain's status as a war hero allows the majority of Americans who were not aware of the devotion to service extracted from our volunteer military and the resulting potential for trauma sustained by those in active combat, well then the insult will not have been in vain.
Nevertheless, perhaps Trump should put his money where his mouth is. How many veterans does he employ? How much of his billions support veterans service organizations? How much time does he donate to working with veterans, building homes for those with disabilities? What is his legislative agenda to ensure that veterans are never marginalized or forgotten?
How dare you, Mr. Trump, cast aspersions on those who have sacrificed and continue to do so daily in the service of our country? Hopefully, Mr. Trump, many of those with prosthetic limbs, who may have to get to the polling center via wheelchair or with assistance, will be able to pull the voting lever next to your opponent's name in the voting booth.