War is hell, and if you survive, you might just live long enough to have Donald Trump throw you a fundraiser.
Earlier this week, the real estate magnate and Republican presidential front-runner decided that instead of attending the Fox News GOP debate Thursday night, he was going to fundraise for veterans at an event at Drake University in Iowa. His decision came after a spat with Fox News in which the network refused to pull Megyn Kelly, who’s disliked by Trump, as a moderator for the debate.
In the early stages of his protest, Trump announced that he would be donating to the Wounded Warrior Project, but soon seemed to recant after unflattering reports of the nonprofit’s spending habits surfaced. As of Thursday morning, however, Trump had launched the site donaldtrumpforvets.com. Visitors there can make donations to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, where “100% of your donations will go directly to Veterans needs.”
The website doesn’t specify what Trump thinks those needs are.
Trump, now somewhat notorious for using images of German Wehrmacht troops from World War II in a tweet with the hashtag #MakeAmericaGreatAgain and Soviet soldiers in an Facebook video meant to honor U.S. veterans, seems to have selected a stock image for his fundraising website. The image features a man dressed in a uniform that has never been worn by American troops. To add insult to injury, it appears he is also wearing a visor. And white sneakers.
— Colin Campbell (@BKcolin) January 28, 2016
Two GOP candidates — former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) — said they would attend Trump’s event, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s super PACs and former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorna pledged to donate $1.5 million to veterans organizations if Trump agreed to a debate.
Caught in the middle of all these former senators and governors and presidential hopefuls is a part of the population that has gone to war, lost friends, been maimed in the name of their country and returned to build their lives. Now, however, they are veterans with a capital “V,” a political football being tossed around for points on the 2016 scoreboard.
Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of the veterans group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweeted in protest to Trump’s proposed fundraiser. Funds don’t need to be sent through political campaigns but can just be sent directly to veterans organizations doing good work, he wrote.
— Paul (PJ) Rieckhoff (@PaulRieckhoff) January 28, 2016
Some on social media took issue with Reickhoff’s attitude toward Trump, though.
@PaulRieckhoff If you're going to deny donations from Trump because he's not the one you want as president. Your a fool. Vets deserve help.
— Mary (@secretkiska) January 28, 2016
Graham Platner, a Marine who fought in the battle of Ramadi, thinks that Trump is playing the part of “patriotic culture warrior” and thinks that Trump’s “knee-jerk patriotism” plays directly to his base.
“We know that he doesn’t give a damn about vets either way. His absurd comments about [Sen.] John McCain and his own military prep school experience illuminate that,” said Platner, referring to Trump’s disparaging comments about McCain that Trump preferred “people who weren’t captured.”
Echoing Platner, combat-wounded Army veteran J.R. Salzman noted that Trump is just another political candidate who has offered veterans little more than lip service.
“Veterans have come to expect two things during election season: being used as political props, and empty promises,” Salzman said. “Our perpetually incompetent VA health system is proof of those empty promises.”