The United States drafted both my grandfathers and my great uncle for World War II. They weren’t eager for war. They weren’t eager to pick up a gun. But when Uncle Sam called, they answered. They did their duty and they fought for their country because that’s who they were, men of integrity.
Not quite thirty years later, war once against engulfed the United States and the draft was re-instituted for men of Donald Trump’s age. Trump also wasn’t eager for war or to pick up a gun, so he invented fallacious medical reports about bone spurs and dodged the draft multiple times.
The United States now has a volunteer military force and many years have passed since the draft. Our men and women in the armed forces are still courageous and patriotic. My husband volunteered to fight. He has served in the Army coming up on ten years now and has deployed with the current conflict. Yet, as a volunteer army has become normal to America, we have forgotten what draft-dodging says about a man’s character.
I didn’t know my grandfathers well. My maternal grandfather died when I was a baby and my paternal grandfather became very ill when I was just a young child, but I remember my great uncle talking about World War II. He’d sometimes reminisce about the year his brother and he were drafted. They were the children of Hungarian immigrants, the first generation to be born American citizens. Their dad had died in the coal mines and my uncle and grandfather struggled to finish their schooling while also working odd jobs to help their widowed mom put food on the table.
The law in my uncle’s hometown said only one son from a family could be drafted, my uncle told me. But the rich families, my uncle said, they rigged the lotteries so their sons didn’t get drafted and the poor families had to send multiple sons to war. So my uncle and my grandfather, the only surviving sons of a widowed mother, had to leave for war while rich men’s sons sat comfortably at home multiplying their wealth.
Almost thirty years after my grandfather and great uncle served, nothing had changed. Rich men like Trump dodged the draft, leaving poor men like my relatives to take on a double burden. My great uncle often told me, “I gave the best years of my life to the Army.” He was proud to serve, but serving took a large toll on him and his family. My great uncle was wounded in the war, and even when he’d reached ninety years of age, I remember the wound still hurting him sometimes.
Is Trump ashamed that he skirted the law and so forced poor men to serve and die in his place? Not at all. Instead, he boasted about how many women he slept with during those years, calling the STD risks he took his ‘personal Vietnam.’
Unlike Trump, my relatives never would have thought of running for office. They worked hard just to put food on the table and to provide for their children. Yet they were good men who would never lie, cheat, or steal and chose to answer their country’s call despite great personal sacrifice.
Trump inherited millions from his father and will pass more millions on to his children. That’s quite the inheritance, but I’d much rather have the legacy my relatives passed onto me, the legacy of honor (spelled correctly) and integrity.
No matter your political leanings, I hope you can agree that’s the kind of legacy we need in our nation’s capital. We need a president who will follow his conscience no matter the cost, not a draft dodger who let poor men’s sons serve and die so he could pursue some playboy dream.