Trump faces criticism for not visiting troops in combat zones
In almost a year since President Trump took office, he’s yet to visit troops stationed overseas in a combat zone.
Although talking up inflating the military, the commander-in-chief has strayed away from a visit to places like Afghanistan, where an estimated 14,000 U.S. troops are still stationed.
One veterans group regularly critical of the President accused him of disregarding troops stationed in combat zones.
“First off, Donald Trump’s been avoiding combat zones since 1964 when he got his first draft deferment,” Will Fischer, director of government relations at VoteVets and an Iraq War veteran, told the Daily News.
The call for Trump to visit troops in combat was raised Wednesday when columnist and author Gregg Zoroya called on the President to re-inspire servicemembers.
“Troops serving in combat speak of a shared, nagging sense that, apart from family and friends, most Americans back home seem oblivious or have forgotten that U.S. military members are still risking their lives overseas,” he wrote in a column for USA Today. “But this sentiment melts away for the moment when the commander in chief comes calling.”
Pres. George H. W. Bush, left, and First Lady Barbara Bush spent Thanksgiving with the troops in 1990 during the Gulf War.
(Scott Applewhite/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
It’s not clear when Trump might make a trip to troops stationed in Afghanistan, or Iraq, where up to 6,000 troops remain.
A White House spokesman didn’t immediately return a request for comment. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told USA Today on a trip to Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria: “We can’t comment at this time when the president might travel there.”
The President received four college deferments from fighting in Vietnam along with a fifth for bone spurs in his heels.
Critics pounced on Trump’s mocking of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over the fact that he was captured during the war.
“We’re talking about a very lazy person,” continued Fischer, whose organization was blocked by the President’s personal Twitter account.
Recent Presidents have regularly visited troops on or near the front lines of combat.
Donald Trump in the White House
George H.W. Bush spent Thanksgiving Day 1990 with troops during Operation Desert Shield in the Gulf War, then ventured to Somalia in 1993 after sending soldiers to the east African nation.
Bill Clinton, in December 1997, visited U.S. troops stationed in Bosnia after deciding to keep soldiers there indefinitely in case war broke out again in the volatile nation.
George W. Bush made frequent trips to Iraq after forces invaded in 2003, as well as ventures to troops in Afghanistan.
President Obama visited Iraq in April 2009, about three months after he took office.
“They go out there, they shake people’s hands, they say ‘Thank you for what you’re doing,'” said Fischer, who was stationed in Iraq’s Anbar province in 2004.
President Trump has made several visits to troops stateside, frequenting bases as well as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Clinton made a late December 1997 venture to Bosnia after committing troops to the war-torn nation for the longterm.
He lunched with troops at Camp Humphreys in South Korea during an early November trip. Trump tried to make a surprise visit to the demilitarized zone with North Korea, but heavy fog scuttled the trip.
And Vice President Mike Pence spent some of the holiday season with servicemembers in Afghanistan, where troop levels are expected to go up.
Visiting Afghanistan has been particularly dangerous. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was the target of a botched rocket attack at Kabul’s airport in late September, which happened hours after the retired general left the facility.
Not visiting troops in combat comes into conflict with Trump’s efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been beleaguered by treatment problems.
Obama greeted troops in Iraq in April 2009, three months after he was sworn in.
(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
He signed several bills over the summer to make it easier to fire bad personnel, give veterans access to private medical care and streamline the appeals process for disability claims.
On Tuesday, he signed an executive order directing the VA, Homeland Security and the Defense Department to come up with a plan to address mental health issues plaguing veterans, as well as embolden suicide prevention.
“They get out of the military, and they had nobody to talk to, nobody to speak to,” Trump said at the signing. “We will not rest until all of America’s great veterans receive the care they’ve earned through their incredible service and sacrifice to our country.”