Salute to America?

“Nah,” Army veteran Lewis Bracy, 66, growled.

Bracy doesn’t think the D.C. event with fireworks and military maneuvers — the “Salute to America” — that President and Party Planner-in-Chief Donald Trump is throwing this weekend is much of a salute.

“This president disrespects the intelligence community,” Bracy said Thursday, in between directing people to the protest he organized at Fort Meade in Maryland, where he used to work as a police officer for the National Security Agency after a decade in the Army.

Bracy, of Hanover, Md., wore his old Army uniform and held a sign he made for the occasion: “Bountygate,” the name he’s given to the reports of Russian bounties placed on American service members in Afghanistan — and Trump’s insistence that it’s all a hoax.

“Donald Trump is claiming to support the military. He’s using the military as a backdrop,” Bracy said. “And now we found out there were targets on the backs of Americans and he said nothing.”

Bracy is part of a growing group of veterans who are fed up with their draft-dodging commander in chief, especially as Trump gears up for another pomp-and-circumstance extravaganza on the Mall for the Fourth of July, using the military as props and toys.

There will be flyovers by Air Force Thunderbirds, Navy Blue Angels and vintage military aircraft, and free face masks for people who come to the Mall to celebrate. Trump supporters are planning a “Roar of the Deplorables” motorcycle rally at the World War II Memorial and a candlelight prayer vigil for Trump at Freedom Plaza.

Trump will have music and his speech on the South Lawn of the White House (go to your favorite GOP leader if you want a ticket, I’m sure they’ll give you one).

And the day before all that, Trump is speaking at Mount Rushmore against the backdrop of a spectacular fireworks display over the dry, brittle Black Hills of South Dakota.

Never mind that the National Park Service stopped fireworks shows there a decade ago for fear of wildfires.

And never mind that lawmakers in the D.C. region wrote letters and made announcements urging people to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sensible organizers already canceled the beloved National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue. The annual concert on the Capitol grounds is being broadcast from elsewhere, instead of held live. City fireworks shows from Annapolis to Alexandria have all been extinguished.

And if a pandemic wasn’t worrying enough, the tab for Trump’s takeover of Independence Day last year came out in a government report last week. It cost taxpayers a record $13 million for the nation’s birthday to become the Trump Show. That’s double the usual price.

If that isn’t enough to make Trump’s insistence on casting the military in his “Salute to America” show ridiculous, the “Bountygate” that Bracy was protesting Thursday makes all this especially insulting.

Trump is calling intelligence reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan “just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party.”

And that’s the part that’s really steaming veterans.

“Those of us who are retired, us veterans, we have an obligation to speak out,” Bracy said. “If nothing but to speak out for the honor and integrity and dedication of the people who are still there, in the intelligence community and the military.”

Bracy isn’t alone in feeling used by Trump.

“I don’t think he cares about troops at all,” Shawn LeMond, a Navy veteran and former Republican legislator in North Carolina, told the Associated Press in an article that ran in Military Times. “If he didn’t know about Russia, it’s because he didn’t do his damn homework. And that’s despicable.”

Former U.S. Navy SEAL Dan Barkhuff also spoke out in a blistering ad from the Lincoln Project this week.

“I’m a pro-life, gun-owning combat veteran, and I can see Trump for what he is. A coward,” Barkhuff said. “We need to send this draft dodger back to the golf course he came from. The lives of our troops depend on it.”

Instead of addressing the military about this frightening new development, Trump’s talking about that way he’s going to maneuver the 1,700 troops he’s drafting to work his holiday spectacle, which he promises “will, without question, be a special evening!”

Forget a pandemic, growing unemployment, a faltering economy, protests across the nation and foreign governments putting a bounty on American heads — Trump has fireworks, y’all!

It will be “a patriotic tribute to our men and women in uniform,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a tweet.


Twitter: @petulad

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