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Trump and the new politics of honoring war dead

WASHINGTON — After her Army son died in an armored car rollover in Syria in May, Sheila Murphy says, she obtained no name or letter from President Donald Trump, whilst she waited months for his condolences, wrote to him to say “some days I don’t want to live,” and nonetheless heard nothing.

In distinction, Trump referred to as to consolation Eddie and Aldene Lee about 10 days after their Army son was killed in an explosion whereas on patrol in Iraq in April. “Lovely young man,” Trump stated, in line with Aldene. She thought that was a stupendous phrase to listen to about her boy, “lovely.”

Like presidents earlier than him, Trump has made private contact with some households of the fallen, not all. What’s totally different is that Trump, alone amongst them, has picked a political struggle over who’s carried out higher to honor the war dead and their households.

He positioned himself at the high of this pantheon, boasting Tuesday that “I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died” whereas previous presidents didn’t place such calls.

But The Associated Press discovered family members of two troopers who died abroad throughout Trump’s presidency who stated they by no means acquired a name or a letter from him, in addition to family members of a 3rd who didn’t get a name. And proof is plentiful that Barack Obama and George W. Bush — saddled with much more fight casualties than the roughly two dozen thus far beneath Trump, took painstaking steps to put in writing, name or meet bereaved navy households.

The topic arose as a result of practically two weeks handed earlier than Trump referred to as the households of 4 U.S. troopers who have been killed in Niger practically two weeks in the past. He made the calls Tuesday.

READ MORE: Trump ignites furor with claim past presidents didn’t console military families by phone

Meanwhile, Rep. Frederica Wilson stated late Tuesday that Trump advised the widow of a slain soldier that he “knew what he signed up for.” Early Wednesday, the president referred to as Wilson’s model of the dialog a fabrication.

The Florida Democrat stated she was in the automotive with Myeshia Johnson on the method to Miami International Airport to satisfy the physique of Johnson’s husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, when Trump referred to as. Wilson says she heard half of the dialog on speakerphone.

When requested by Miami station WPLG if she certainly heard Trump say that she answered: “Yeah, he said that. To me, that is something that you can say in a conversation, but you shouldn’t say that to a grieving widow.” She added: “That’s so insensitive.”

Trump took sturdy concern with that recounting early Wednesday.

“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” he stated on Twitter.

Sgt. Johnson was amongst 4 servicemen killed in the Niger ambush.

Wilson stated that she didn’t hear the whole dialog and Myeshia Johnson advised her she couldn’t keep in mind every thing that was stated.

The White House didn’t instantly remark.

READ MORE: Trump’s claim about predecessors, fallen troops disputed

Trump’s delay in publicly discussing the males misplaced at Niger didn’t look like extraordinary, judging from previous examples, however his politicization of the matter is. He went thus far Tuesday as to quote the demise of chief of workers John Kelly’s son in Afghanistan to query whether or not Obama had correctly honored the war dead.

Kelly was a Marine common beneath Obama when his Marine son Robert died in 2010. “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Trump stated on Fox News radio.

Democrats and some former authorities officers have been furious, accusing Trump of “inane cruelty” and a “sick game.”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who misplaced each legs when her helicopter was attacked, stated: “I just wish that this commander in chief would stop using Gold Star families as pawns in whatever sick game he’s trying to play here.”

For their half, Gold Star households, which have misplaced members in wartime, advised AP of acts of intimate kindness from Obama and Bush when these commanders in chief consoled them.

Trump initially claimed that solely he amongst presidents made positive to name households. Obama might have carried out so from time to time, he stated, however “other presidents did not call.”

He equivocated Tuesday as the file made plain that his characterization was false. “I don’t know,” he stated of previous calls. But he stated his personal observe was to name all households of the war dead.

But that hasn’t occurred:

No White House protocol calls for that presidents converse or meet with the households of Americans killed in motion — an unattainable job in a war’s bloodiest levels. But they typically do.

Altogether some 6,900 Americans have been killed in abroad wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults, the overwhelming majority beneath Bush and Obama.

Despite the a lot heavier toll on his watch — greater than 800 dead annually from 2004 via 2007 — Bush wrote to all bereaved navy households and met or spoke with a whole bunch if not hundreds, stated his spokesman, Freddy Ford.

Veterans teams stated that they had no quarrel with how presidents have acknowledged the fallen or their households.

“I don’t think there is any president I know of who hasn’t called families,” stated Rick Weidman, co-founder and govt director of Vietnam Veterans of America. “President Obama called often and President Bush called often. They also made regular visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Center, going in the evenings and on Saturdays.”


Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, Kristen de Groot in Philadelphia, Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, Michelle Price in Salt Lake City, and Hope Yen and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

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