The president has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members, and also asked that wounded veterans be preserved out of armed forces parades, multiple sources tell The Atlantic.

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Donald trumped greets households of the fallen in ~ Arlington nationwide Cemetery top top Memorial day 2017. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty)

When president Donald trump card canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, the blamed rain because that the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter can not fly” and also that the an enig Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither insurance claim was true.

Trump rubbish the idea that the visit due to the fact that he feared his hair would end up being disheveled in the rain, and because that did not believe it vital to respect American war dead, according to four world with firsthand expertise of the conversation that day. In a conversation with senior staff members top top the morning the the scheduled visit, trump said, “Why need to I go to that cemetery? it’s filled v losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump described the much more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau timber as “suckers” for getting killed.

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Belleau lumber is a consequential fight in American history, and also the floor on which it was dealt with is venerated by the marine Corps. America and its allies quit the German advance toward Paris over there in the feather of 1918. But Trump, on that very same trip, request aides, “Who were the good guys in this war?” He likewise said the he didn’t recognize why the United says would intervene on the next of the Allies.

Trump’s understanding of principles such together patriotism, service, and sacrifice has actually interested me due to the fact that he express contempt for the war record of the so late Senator man McCain, who spent much more than five years as a prisoner of the north Vietnamese. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015 while to run for the Republican nomination because that president. “I like civilization who weren’t captured.”

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There to be no precedent in American national politics for the expression of this kind of contempt, but the performatively patriotic Trump did no damage to his candidacy by attacking McCain in this manner. No one did he set his campaign ago by attacking the parents of Humayun Khan, an army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Trump continued to be fixated top top McCain, one of the few prominent republic to continue criticizing the after he won the nomination. When McCain died, in august 2018, Trump called his an elderly staff, follow to three sources with direct knowledge the this event, “We’re no going to support that loser’s funeral,” and he ended up being furious, follow to witnesses, when he saw flags lower to half-staff. “What the fuck room we doing the for? guy was a fucking loser,” the chairman told aides. Trumped was not invited to McCain’s funeral. (These sources, and also others quoted in this article, speak on condition of anonymity. The White home did not return previously calls because that comment, but Alyssa Farah, a White residence spokesperson, emailed me this statement soon after this story to be posted: “This report is false. Chairman Trump holds the military in the highest possible regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them in ~ every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much needed pay raise, enhancing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and also supporting military spouses. This has actually no communication in fact.”)

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Trump’s knowledge of heroism has not evolved due to the fact that he ended up being president. Follow to sources with knowledge of the president’s views, he appears to genuinely not recognize why american treat previous prisoners that war with respect. No one does he know why pilots who are shot down in combat are honored by the military. On at least two occasions because becoming president, according to three sources with direct knowledge of his views, trump card referred to previous President George H. W. Shrub as a “loser” because that being shot under by the Japanese together a marine pilot in world War II. (Bush escaped capture, yet eight other men shot down throughout the very same mission were caught, tortured, and also executed by Japanese soldiers.)

When lashing the end at critics, Trump often reaches because that illogical and also corrosive insults, and also members the the bush family have publicly protest him. However his cynicism around service and heroism extends even to the people War ns dead buried outside Paris—people that were killed much more than a 4 minutes 1 century prior to he was born. Trump find the notion of armed forces service difficult to understand, and also the idea that volunteering come serve particularly incomprehensible. (The president did no serve in the military; he got a medical deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War due to the fact that of the alleged existence of bone spur in his feet. In the 1990s, Trump stated his efforts to prevent contracting sexually sent diseases constituted his “personal Vietnam.”)

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On Memorial job 2017, Trump checked out Arlington national Cemetery, a brief drive from the White House. He was accompanied ~ above this visit by john Kelly, that was climate the secretary of homeland security, and also who would, a short time later, be named the White home chief of staff. The two males were set to visit ar 60, the 14-acre area that the cemetery the is the burial ground because that those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s kid Robert is hidden in section 60. A very first lieutenant in the naval Corps, Robert Kelly was eliminated in 2010 in Afghanistan. He to be 29. Trump to be meant, ~ above this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of various other fallen business members. Yet according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, if standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned straight to his father and also said, “I don’t obtain it. What remained in it for them?” Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, the Trump to be making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not recognize non-transactional life choices.

“He can not fathom the idea of law something for someone various other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, called me. “He simply thinks the anyone who does anything as soon as there’s no direct an individual gain come be had actually is a sucker. Yes no money in offer the nation.” Kelly’s friend went on come say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen naval on Memorial day in the cemetery whereby he’s buried.”

I’ve asked countless general officers over the past year because that their analysis of Trump’s seeming contempt for military service. They sell a variety of explanations. Several of his unbelievable is rooted in frustration, they say. Trump, unlike previous presidents, tends to believe that the military, like other departments of the federal government, is beholden only to him, and not the Constitution. Many an elderly officers have expressed worry about Trump’s expertise of the rule governing the usage of the armed forces. This issue came to a head in early June, during demonstrations in Washington, D.C., in response to police killings of black color people. James Mattis, the retired maritime general and former secretary the defense, lambasted trump at the time for bespeak law-enforcement officers to forcibly clear protesters native Lafayette Square, and also for making use of soldiers together props: “When ns joined the military, some 50 year ago, ns swore one oath come support and also defend the Constitution,” Mattis wrote. “Never did i dream the troops acquisition that very same oath would certainly be bespeak under any circumstance to hurt the Constitutional civil liberties of their other citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op because that the chosen commander-in-chief, through military leadership standing alongside.”

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Another explanation is much more quotidian, and also aligns with a more comprehensive understanding that Trump’s material-focused worldview. The president believes the nothing is precious doing without the promise of monetary payback, and also that talented people who don’t go after riches room “losers.” (According to eyewitnesses, after a White home briefing provided by the then-chairman of the share Chiefs the Staff, basic Joe Dunford, trump turned come aides and also said, “That guy is smart. Why go he sign up with the military?”)

Yet another, related, explanation concerns what shows up to it is in Trump’s pathological are afraid of showing up to look choose a “sucker” himself. His capacious an interpretation of sucker includes those who lose their stays in organization to their country, and those who room taken prisoner, or space wounded in battle. “He has a most fear,” one officer with firsthand expertise of Trump’s see said. “He doesn’t check out the heroism in fighting.” number of observers said me the Trump is deep anxious about dying or gift disfigured, and this concern manifests itself as disgust because that those who have actually suffered. Trump card recently claimed that he has actually received the bodies of slain organization members “many, many” times, however in truth he has traveled come Dover Air pressure Base, the transfer point for the remains of fallen business members, only four times because becoming president. In another incident, trump card falsely declared that that had called “virtually all” the the family members of service members that had passed away during his term, then began rush-shipping condolence letter when families said the president was not telling the truth.

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Trump has actually been, for the duration of his presidency, fixated top top staging army parades, however only of a specific sort. In a 2018 White residence planning conference for together an event, Trump inquiry his staff not to encompass wounded veterans, top top grounds that spectators would feel uncomfortable in the existence of amputees. “Nobody wants to watch that,” the said.