President Donald Trump, reacting to Monday’s deadly attack on an AMVETS post in Chattanooga, Tenn., offered the following message: “We’re going to get to the bottom of this. We’re going to find those people. We will find them, we will get to the bottom of it. We will get to the bottom of this, and we will take care of it.”
That message might leave veterans and their families anxious in the wake of a grisly incident and with the trepidation of reminding our country of those who were sacrificed for America.
But does that anxiety have anything to do with the facts and what we know about Monday’s attack? We have a clear picture of the attack itself: The gunman, John Russell Houser, fatally shot a woman at a restaurant in nearby Goodlettsville and then continued his rampage at the AMVETS post, leaving four dead.
The recent Veterans Week–June 11-17 at the White House featured a sumptuous celebration with President Trump and his wife, First Lady Melania, to honor our nation’s brave veterans.
I’m grateful to the president for his message of offering solace to the families of those who died. He did not miss an opportunity to praise our armed forces and their families, and his words are comforting to veterans and their loved ones.
What is not comforting is that those comments about “finding the truth” of the matter, such as that offered by the president, are convenient digs at those who served, draw the national spotlight on our veterans’ suffering and raise questions about our ability to protect veterans’ lives.
There is little room for bipartisan support when some politicians are doing nothing more than offering excuses for those who do not treat veterans with dignity and respect.
It’s “we’re not willing to hear whatever you have to say,” they say to service members, who willingly volunteer to die for their country and struggle for long-term physical and mental health. There is no time limit on that sacrifice. It’s the soldiers and Marines who serve our country that are engaged in this nation’s longstanding problems. And we fail to support them. We fail to keep them alive.
Unlike most U.S. presidents who have never worn the uniform, Mr. Trump once served as a Vietnam veteran. I’m thankful for his service. I’m also thankful for the veterans he has been able to count as an ally and a friend.
Veterans are ready to do their part, work with our elected officials and with Mr. Trump and his staff to correct the problems that threaten their lives.
Time is not on our side, especially in light of last week’s VA reform proposal, the Comprehensive Veteran’s Access, Choice and Accountability Act.
The president proposed a plan on Wednesday to give veterans of any conflict at the time of service, which does not include those who serve in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, easier access to VA care. But the proposal would expire in five years unless a similar bill is passed again, which I’m not counting on.
Perhaps veteran leaders like Ralph Peters, John Buckley, Tom Tarantino and Daniel Hallman of the libertarian think tank FreedomWorks, among others, could assist the president in pushing a more bipartisan plan that would better support veterans and the families who’ve given of themselves to protect our nation.
If the president won’t do that, veterans can do it for him. They should reach out to their representatives and call their local VA centers, visit their local American Legion or VFW, ask them to sign a letter to the president urging him to work with our elected officials to improve veterans’ care, and bring our men and women home.
President Trump has been trying to fix a broken system from the beginning. He has the compassion to do what veterans need and want for themselves and our nation.
The voices of patriotic veterans and their families are loud and clear. It’s time to hear it, and it’s time to fix it.
Bruce Durkin is executive director of Team Rubicon USA, a veteran and active duty infantry officer who retired after 28 years of service and was wounded in the combat zone of Iraq.