Few people likely believed President Trump’s excuse for skipping a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, which he claimed was because “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and the Secret Service would not drive him.
And according to a recent report in The Atlantic, those people were wise: neither of Trump’s claims was true.
Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day.
In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
- Trump has shown a pattern when it comes to his apparent disdain for veterans, The Atlantic noted.
- On Memorial Day in 2017, Trump joined then secretary of homeland security “John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members.” Sources familiar with the visit said “Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, ‘I don’t get it. What was in it for them?’”
“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, told me. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.” Kelly’s friend went on to say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried.”
- His transactional view of military service — indeed, of all things — came to the forefront during discussions of military parades as well, according to the report.
Trump has been, for the duration of his presidency, fixated on staging military parades, but only of a certain sort. In a 2018 White House planning meeting for such an event, Trump asked his staff not to include wounded veterans, on grounds that spectators would feel uncomfortable in the presence of amputees. “Nobody wants to see that,” he said.