“The Most Precious Office”

by Cindy Offutt
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, November 2016
Reprinted on August 31, 2018, on the occasion of Senator McCain’s passing

Four Navy sailors in flight gear with a B-2 Buckeye aircraft
“John McCain, (front, right) with his squadron in 1965” from the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center is in the public domain as a US Government work

My father fought in World War II in the Pacific theater.  As the father of two daughters, he did not much talk to his girls about the war – except to make it clear that it had been a searing experience.  If my mother’s character was shaped by poverty during the Great Depression, my father’s experience in World War II forever altered his perceptions about the world he lived in.  Neither was ever able to fully leave those experiences behind.

I have just watched a video on YouTube about the upcoming presidential election.  It’s indexed under “Campaign 2016” and contains advertisements from both candidates’ presidential campaigns.  Admittedly, one must take a step or two back when watching these commercials since they are produced by marketing wizards who know exactly how to pull on the heart-strings

Still, there is one in particular that should give pause to every American who is considering a vote for Donald Trump.

It’s the one called “War Hero” and it features a very old Army veteran who fought in World War II in the European theater.  He was taken prisoner by the Germans after he’d knocked out a bunker with a grenade. 

“War Hero” starts with a reminder about Donald Trump’s stated opinion of military members who are captured by the enemy – specifically, of Senator John McCain.  For those with a short memory, in July of last year, in an unscripted interview (meaning he was expressing his own opinion as opposed to that of his handlers), Donald Trump proclaimed that Senator McCain is “not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured.  I like people who weren’t captured, OK.”

The history is undisputed.  In October 1967, during his 23rd combat air mission, Navy pilot John McCain was shot down during a bombing run over Hanoi.  He was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese and eventually imprisoned at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”  Because he was the son of a high-ranking Naval officer, McCain was repeatedly offered early release.  McCain steadfastly refused.  He spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war – over three years of those in solitary confinement – and was repeatedly beaten and tortured before being released in 1973.

While I cannot say I agree with Senator McCain’s political views – especially as he has been pulled further to the right to placate the Tea Party crowd – I can say that I know an honorable man and American hero when I see one. 

Former Navy pilot and combat veteran John McCain is, indeed, an American hero, and I for one cannot imagine denigrating his extraordinarily courageous service on behalf of this country.

Nor can I imagine denigrating the service of the many military men and women who have honorably served – and all too frequently been captured – on behalf of my country.

But back to the WW2 veteran in the political ad.  Among other things, he counsels, “Apart from the outrage of the insult to prisoners of war, (Trump) insulted all of our military.”

And then, with very evident emotion, this very old veteran of that very old war speaks words that every child of a combat war veteran should understand: “My war is 70 years ago — and yesterday.  (Trump) is everything I would not want to be, or emulate, and I would hope we would not adulate a man like him, and put him into the most precious office in this country.”

It’s been nothing short of stunning that Mr. Trump’s unwarranted and malevolent attack on a true American hero has been so assiduously ignored by so many of the very same people who pretend to be the most magnificent supporters of “the military” – but who nonetheless intend to vote for a man who can so casually demean and denigrate prisoners of war.

Like Trump, they are all too often the same people who have never served.  As everyone knows, following the example of Dick “I had other priorities” Cheney, Donald Trump obtained a number of student deferments from military service (as well as a bone spur deferment) just as the Viet Nam War was escalating towards its ultimate horrors.

It is appalling that a man of Trump’s deplorable character might be elected to make the life and death decisions that the commander-in-chief is called upon to make. 

One can only wonder – with considerable dread and apprehension – what will happen to the men and women of our military who are captured and held prisoner in military actions undertaken on-order of the president.  I can only think that a President Donald Trump would leave them behind since, in his own words, he “likes people who weren’t captured.”

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