I have the outlines of my grandfather’s face. We have the same wide, apple-dumpling cheeks, the same pouch behind our primary chin that will, with age, turn into a double chin and the same figure that gains weight easily and quickly, the better for winter hibernation. He was an Air Force pilot, and he had trouble keeping his weight at the required minimum. I suspect he would have been a plump and jolly grandpa, a Santa-esque figure with a bowl full of jelly.

But he never got a chance to be a grandfather. He barely got to be a father. He died when his only child was 6 months old. So, I’ve been trying to figure out if my grandpa Mel was a “sucker” and a “loser” by Donald Trump’s standards.

According to a Sept. 3 article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg, when Trump refused to visit the Aisne-Marne American cemetery in France, he said the soldiers buried there were “suckers” and “losers” for giving their life in service to their country and the world.

But technically, my grandfather doesn’t count in the war dead statistics. He flew B-47 bombers, and one night on a training run over Watertown, New York, in January 1962, because of bad weather, and possible malfunctioning of instruments, his plane crashed into Wright Peak. Mel Spencer was obliterated in service to his country. He was 28 years old. I turned 28 myself last week, so I’ve been realizing just how truly young he was when he died. He never got to see his daughter grow up, which is a shame, because his daughter is my mom, and my mom is awesome.

The president also looks down on people who join the military instead of pursuing money. What would he make of my dad, I wonder? Dad joined the Air Force when he was 17 to pay his way through college. Loser? Sucker? But then he became a lawyer and had some prestigious, well-paying jobs at a bank. So, not a loser, not a sucker. But then after 20 years, he became an ed tech – a teacher’s aide – which is a female-dominated, very low-paying profession. Back to being a loser and a sucker, I guess.

My brother is in the Navy. He was deployed for nine months to the Middle East, and when he was, I could communicate with him only sporadically, through Facebook, at weird times, because of the time difference. Is he a sucker and a loser? (Full disclosure: I have definitely called him a loser before, but that’s only because I’m his big sister and it comes with the territory.)

What about my great-great-some-more-greats grandfather Cornelius “Neil” MacEachron, who fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War? Is he a loser or a sucker? Should he have tried being a war profiteer instead?

People who wrap themselves in American flags and scream about “supporting the troops” aren’t usually from military families like mine. Our country chews up its soldiers and spits them out. Roughly 17 veterans die by suicide every day. Does that sound like we are doing a good job of supporting our troops? I’ve heard people say Democrats hate America. Do you think I would let my baby brother be put in harm’s way if I didn’t love America?

When an American joins the military, they sign up to sacrifice. They sacrifice their freedom of movement, they sacrifice their time, and sometimes they are called to sacrifice their lives if necessary. But families of military members are required to make sacrifices too, ones that they didn’t sign on the dotted line for and never agreed to.

Trump asked that wounded veterans, particularly amputees, be excluded from a military event. He allegedly said, “Nobody wants to see that.”

Now, disgust is an emotion that comes from fear. I don’t think Trump is afraid of wounded veterans; I think he’s afraid to look in the mirror of his own cowardice. He is a small man, a tiny man, who has never known sacrifice and has never known what it means to work for something bigger than one’s own self and one’s own personal profit. Giving your time, your talents, your life in service to other people is not a foolish or stupid thing to do; whether it is joining the military or becoming a public health practitioner, it’s beautiful and should be celebrated.

Being commander in chief means that you are at the top of the chain of command, responsible for the health and well-being of every single soldier and sailor. Functioning in that position means that you respect and care about every single person under your command. Mr. Trump does not deserve the honor of leading our troops.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: mainemillennial


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