Unearned Honor

purple heart

In the 1991 film, For the Boys, USO entertainers Dixie Leonard (Bette Midler) and Eddie Sparks (James Caan) travel and perform together through World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. They want to bring some fun to the service personnel and act for “the boys.” The story of their adventures together, filled with love, laughter and tears, is related in flashbacks by Dixie on the eve of her being awarded a medal by the President.

In one of the more memorable lines in the film, Eddie says to Dixie: “Two hours alone with you? That boy deserves a purple heart.” To which Dixie replies: “Well, it was purple, alright, but I don’t think it was his heart!”

Bawdy? Yes. Funny? Yes, especially the way that Midler delivers her line.

But the Purple Heart is anything but funny. The Purple Heart Medal is given to men and women for wounds suffered in combat. And that is not funny!

The other day, Trump received a Purple Heart Medal from a veteran at one of his rallies in Virginia. Trump, who later identified the veteran as retired Lieutenant Colonel Louis Dorfman. According to records, Dorfman was wounded in action in November 2007 in Iraq.

Why the colonel gave Trump his Purple Heart is a mystery to me. I have seen photos of Colonel Dorfman in his full dress uniform. He has medals and ribbons galore. He could have given Trump any one of these, but he chose to give him his Purple Heart Medal instead. As I said, his gesture is a mystery.

The Purple Heart is given to those serving in the armed forces who are wounded in combat. Trump never served in the military, though he once said that he “always felt that I was in the military” because he went to military school! Trump has said his experience at the New York Military Academy, an expensive prep school where his parents had sent him to correct poor behavior, gave him “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”

Trump attended the New York Military Academy after years of rowdy and rebellious behavior at Kew-Forest, a more traditional prep school in Queens. Trump once recalled giving a teacher at Kew-Forest a black eye “because I didn’t think he knew anything about music.”

He arrived at the military academy for eighth grade in 1959 and remained for high school. Like all students at the campus in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, he wore a uniform, participated in marching drills and was expected to conform to a hierarchy imposed by instructors. Despite sitting out the Vietnam War because of deferments followed by a high draft lottery number of 356 out of 366, Trump said he endured the rigors of military life.

“My number was so incredible, and it was a very high draft number. Anyway, so I never had to do that, but I felt that I was in the military in the true sense because I dealt with those people,” Trump has said.

I am taken aback by this remark. I suspect that not many of the academy’s alumni would compare military school with actual military service, but the assertion is consistent with the self-image Trump has often expressed.

Trump was old enough to have been drafted during the Vietnam War, but received five deferments. Four of them were because he was still in school; the fifth was medical. Trump, his doctor said, had bone spurs on his heels.

“I had a doctor that gave me a letter – a very strong letter on the heels,” the nominee told the New York Times  in a recent interview. He could not remember which heel was affected (his campaign said it was both) or how it was resolved, but it was enough to keep him out of combat.

In 1993, Trump, who received multiple draft deferments, told Howard Stern if you are dating, “you’re the equivalent of a soldier going over to Vietnam.” He also told Stern that dating was his “own personal Vietnam.” Huh?

In 2004, Trump adapted his comparison to modern times, updating his reference by likening dating to serving in Iraq. Trump was speaking to Playboy magazine about dating in the age of AIDS when he made the comment.

“Was there a time when you worried about AIDS because of all you’d done?” asked Playboy.

“There was, but I got tested,” said Trump. “I think it’s hard for young kids today. It’s a whole different thing. I tell my sons just to get a nice girlfriend and be happy, because it’s dangerous out there. It’s Vietnam. I guess now we can say it’s Iraq – same deal, right?”

Trump’s claim may raise eyebrows given that he never served in the military and mocked Senator John McCain of Arizona, a decorated naval aviator, for his captivity of several years during the Vietnam War. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump has said. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

After Trump told the Virginia audience about receiving the Purple Heart, he invited the man who had given it to him up on stage, prompting cheers from the audience and chants of “USA!”

“Something very nice just happened to me. A man came up to me and he handed me his Purple Heart,” Trump said. “I said to him, is that the real one, or is that a copy?” He said, “That’s my real Purple Heart. I have such confidence in you.” And I said, “Man, that’s big stuff.” (Contrary to Trump’s version of the story, it has been reported that Colonel Dorfman says that he had made a copy of his original Purple Heart to give to the presidential candidate.)

“I always wanted to get the Purple Heart,” Trump continued. “This was much easier.”

When I heard those words, I wanted to puke. I take issue with Trump accepting the Purple Heart. The colonel has the right to do with it what he wants, including passing it on to his heirs as a keepsake. But Trump showed no class (as usual) by accepting it without having earned it in any way. He did not serve in the military or government service; he was not in combat and he was not wounded. Having been wounded in combat is the significance of the Purple Heart and it cannot be transferred to or bestowed upon another person who did not earn it. For Trump it was an empty gesture, a photo op, as witnessed by his comments. No one in their right mind “wants” to earn a Purple Heart and Trump’s cavalier acceptance remarks bear out what its importance was to him. If he had any class at all, he could have thanked the vet for the gesture, commented on the significance of the Purple Heart as an award, but declined to accept it based on the fact that he did not “earn” it and therefore would tarnish its significance by accepting it without qualifying for it. His response was just another slight to the vets he purports to “love so much”!

Doesn’t Trump realize that no one “wants a Purple Heart?” Such a statement is the same as saying, “I always wanted to be injured or killed in a war.” What an idiotic thing to say!

Did Trump even say to Colonel Dorfman, “Thank you for your service; thank you for YOUR SACRIFICE?” No. His response was like throwing the Purple Heart into the garbage, considering where it ended up.

Donald Trump receiving the Purple Heart bothers me. It offends me. For the self-proclaimed “healthiest candidate in the history of the world,” who once received a medical deferment to stay out of the draft, his gesture is odious.

Trump’s action has also bothered Purple Heart recipient, Lieutenant Cameron Kerr, a native of Massachusetts. It bothered him so much that he decided to create a GoFundMe page for Donald Trump so that he could earn his Purple Heart. God, I wish I had thought of that!

In a recent statement, Lieutenant Kerr declares: “As with seemingly everything else in his life, Mr. Trump got one handed to him instead of earning it. That being said, as a Purple Heart recipient who earned one the old-fashioned way by returning from Afghanistan one leg lighter, I fully endorse his desire to earn one and would happily oblige his interest in doing so, by being one of the first to chip in to fly him to the conflict zone of his choosing. After all, you’re never too old to follow your dreams.

“…ok, let’s be serious. Super serious. We’re not going to be able to help Donald realize his conveniently retroactive military fantasies, and based on precedent he could likely get a series of deferments to avoid going even if we tried. So instead, we’re going to convert toxic bigotry, ignorance, and callousness into something positive. As Michelle Obama said/as Melania Trump might say at some point in the future: ‘when they go low, we go high’”

Lieutenant Kerr proposes that the monies given to him through the GoFundMe page will go to helping Syrian refugees, a “good cause that Donald Trump would vehemently oppose,” says Lieutenant Kerr.

Now, there is a real hero.



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