This post has been updated.
LOS ANGELES -- Donald Trump stood on a stage on a battleship Tuesday night, three sixteen-inch guns looming behind him, to talk U.S. firepower.
"We’re gonna make our military so big and so strong and so great and it will be so powerful that I don’t think we’re ever going to have to use it. Nobody’s gonna mess with us," Trump said, the flags of the USS Iowa floating in the breeze.
Trump came here to give what was advance-billed by event organizers as a "major national security speech," though it clocked in at a lean 13 minutes and was again notably short on specifics.
But Trump did offer a hint of his plans on veterans health care, saying the VA system should be entirely revamped and that veterans might be offered the option of health care outside the system because "we have illegal immigrants that are being treated better than our veterans."
"We're gonna create a whole new system, we're gonna take this system apart, and if they're not doing the job the veterans are going to go to private doctors, private hospitals," he said.
The night before the second Republican debate, where foreign policy is expected to take center stage, Trump said again that as president, he would be "respected by Putin, respected by Iran."
"I'm fighting some very nice people [for the GOP nomination], they’re very nice people, even though I’m leading in the polls," he said. "They’re never going to do anything with these countries. They’re never going to be able to do it. It’s an instinct. It’s something that’s special. They don’t have it. Believe me, they don’t have it. It’s just going to be more of the same."
A phalanx of protesters stood on the street outside the port and later moved into the parking lot, shouting "Donald Trump, he's a racist!" Their signs read: "Deport Trump" and "Combed over his draft card."
Trump supporters shouted at protesters from the boat; the protesters shouted back. Later, as attendees filed off the boat, one man could be seen confronting a protester.
"With him running for president racism has appeared ... more than usual," said protester Gustavo Mendez, 17, who held a sign reading "I'm not an anchor baby."
On the battleship, Trump continued to take aim at the nation's immigration system, saying that he is "so happy that I'm the one who brought it to the fore," and that there is "tremendous crime, tremendous drugs" pouring into the country from Mexico.
Still, said Trump, "I love Mexico. I have many many people, many, people from Mexico, who work with me, and they work for me and they buy my apartments," he said.
And Trump continued to pay tribute to the "silent majority."
"It is back," he said. "I don't think we have to call it a silent majority anymore."
The mogul continued to blast the Iran deal he attacked at a Capitol Hill rally last week, calling it "one of the dumbest deals and weakest contracts I've ever seen of any kind." He added that the world "blew up" when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
At Wednesday's debate, Trump is expected to face tough questions about his foreign policy knowledge. Last week, his failure to answer tough security and international affairs queries posed by radio host Hugh Hewitt -- who will be challenging candidates at this week's debate -- highlighted his lack of foreign policy bona fides.
Trump, who did not serve in the military, faced criticism earlier this summer for appearing to speak dismissively about both the military record and the veterans issues record of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a naval aviator who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.
Trump didn't mention McCain Tuesday, saying only that he's "with the veterans, 100 percent."
His remarks Tuesday came at a fundraiser for the conservative 501 (c) 4 nonprofit Veterans for a Strong America aboard the USS Iowa, which is now a museum.
The night had a decidedly Hollywood bent. Trump was introduced by former game show host Wink Martindale, who appears to have aged very little since he hosted "Tic Tac Dough" in the 1980s, and Tim Abell, star of the reality show "A Grateful Nation." Early in the evening, a smooth jazz band, followed by a Neil Diamond soundtrack, serenaded the crowd.
The event brought out Trump supporters like Bob Bruchmann, 72, of Mission Viejo, Calif., who said he is supporting Trump because of a mattress.
Bruchmann's wife bought a Trump mattress in 2011 and didn't like it; he tried to return it, but the store was "busting her cajones," he said. So Bruchmann wrote a letter to Trump himself.
Bruchmann said he got a call from Serta a few weeks later, telling him to pick out any mattress he wanted. "When he says he's committed to doing something, you know he goddam will, if he's committed to a mattress," Bruchmann said.
Bobby Watcharasakunee, 28, of Glendora, Calif., a Marines Corps Veteran, and George Short, 73, of La Mirada, Calif., an Army veteran, said they think Trump will make the military and country stronger.
"We need someone who's got balls. And isn't going to stand down from nobody," Watcharasakunee said.
"That's B-A-L-L-S," Short said.
Later, Trump tossed supporters some of his signature "Make America Great Again" hats into a crowd of supporters. "This is the hottest thing out there," he said.
This post incorrectly said said the U.S.S. Iowa was an aircraft carrier; it has been changed.