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so long, “suckers”

September 4, 2020

Please understand that, as a USMC veteran, I forgive Trump for his unforgivable comments about the military being “losers” who couldn’t find better jobs and “suckers” for dying in battle. He is beneath contempt.

But his thoughtless words reminded me of an incredible experience I had when serving in Vietnam. The Navy ship I was usually on would go to the Phillipines every six weeks or so for repairs, refueling and resupplying. A fellow jarhead and I took some leave once to visit Manila. We toured the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.

The cemetery has 17,602 “suckers” buried there, including 23 Medal of Honor recipients. The memorial walls list 36,286 more “suckers” missing in action, including the five Sullivan brothers who died when the USS Juneau was sunk. It has the largest number of graves of any burial grounds for U.S. personnel from World War II.

The gravestones are arranged in a circle with the walls in the middle. They are spread over 152 acres. I stood near the middle and did a 360. There were markers everywhere I could see.

In perfect hindsight, that was likely the first hint I had of the crushing futility of the human experience. I was struggling enough as a casualty reporter helping sort out the dead and wounded, but to see the end of the memorial process was overwhelming.

I don’t know how this “losers”/”suckers” flap will play out. It can’t help Trump with other veterans, no matter how much he denies saying those words. It does, however, knock him off his already-shaky game plan with less than two months to go. And early voting has started.