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War veterans say they'll vote based on actions, not allegations about Trump's words

Combat veterans told Just the News that they are unmoved by alleged anti-military comments from Trump.

Updated: October 29, 2020 - 11:27am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The U.S. military community is sorting chaff from truth when deciding whether to reelect Donald Trump as commander in chief, veterans and active duty service members told Just the News — with presidential action, not alleged words, swaying their votes.

"For those who haven't heard the term, chaff is a countermeasure meant to distract you," one Air Force enlisted woman said. "What we've seen with negative reports about Trump's so-called problems with the military is a whole lot of worthless, distracting chaff." Like other active duty service members, the airman withheld her name from publication because she is not allowed to speak privately to the media.

The negative reports include claims from anonymous sources, published in the Atlantic, that Trump disparaged the military, and said that Americans who died in war are "losers" and "suckers." 

Trump, backed by numerous witnesses, vehemently denied the claims, but they were taken as truth by detractors, including high-profile former flag officers who lobbed verbal shots at the president. 

"Trump. Ignorance. Cruelty," tweeted retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey, who ran Bill Clinton's Office of National Drug Control Policy. "These are our soldiers. They stepped forward to defend us. He is a terrible President to call our Armed Forces 'losers and suckers.' "

Combat veterans, however, told Just the News that they are unmoved by the alleged comments from Trump.

"I don't think hardly any veteran believes it," said Jim Lechner, who served multiple tours in the Army, and is a decorated and wounded combat veteran. "It's debunked propaganda."

Another veteran who was wounded in combat echoed those views. 

"I do not think Trump actually said it," said Chuck Ziegenfuss, who is retired from the Army. "And that's what it boils down to. Do I believe a president who has done more for veterans than any other ... or the author and editors of the Atlantic?"

The key issue in the presidential contest is action, the veterans said.

"For many years, we have had leaders who were great orators who like many politicians, knew how to talk the talk," said Chad Longell, who deployed with the Army as part of the global War on Terror. "Despite concerns by some of President Trump's rhetoric style, unlike many typical politicians, he has shown a determination to actually deliver results."

The results are military-specific, the service members and veterans noted.

"He has very effectively and energetically pursued the destruction of ISIS, and had the strength to take out our enemies," Lechner said. "He rebuilt our military strength that atrophied under Obama, partly due to sequestration. We had critical shortages in key areas like spare parts, new aircraft, new weapons systems. Trump rebuilt the military from that aspect."

One key factor, he said, is how America uses its service members. 

"Trump hasn't frivolously used the lives of the military," Lechner said.

Others contacted by Just the News credited Trump with military pay raises, reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the ongoing Middle East peace deals. 

Accomplishments include "rebuilding our military strength while also telling our NATO partners to pay up, and actually not starting nor expanding new wars," Ziegnefuss said.

The military community, though, does not uniformly skew one way nor the other, as found in recent polls from Military Times. Views vary by demographic, such as age, race, and gender. To the civilian community's frequent surprise, the military community overall is diverse, one researcher told the outlet.

Trump's harshest military detractors continue to spring from a phalanx of former flag officers.

Retired four-star Admiral William McRaven, who in 2016 was touted as a possible Hillary Clinton cabinet member, criticized Trump indirectly in the Wall Street Journal, where he divulged that he voted for Biden, and wrote that "the world no longer looks up to America."

McCaffrey, for his part, has continued his charge via Twitter. He wrote on Tuesday: "This is a rogue President capable of anything." The nearly 78-year-old former general earlier expanded his comments to include voters, writing on Oct. 22: "Anyone undecided at this point is brain dead or lying."

Others in the military community are eager for the "chaff" to settle down, particularly where it appears in the press.

"The media tries to use veterans to make political points," a VA health care professional told Just the News. "I wish they would stop."

One active duty Army enlisted soldier agreed.

"We're not puppets," said the soldier, who is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. "Don't use us to push any election year political agenda." 

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