After I was commissioned in the Army as an infantry officer in 1969, my first assignment was to serve as a tactical training officer at the Officer Candidate School, Fort Benning, GA. Each week, over 270 soldiers would start the six-month training regimen leading to their being commissioned. By the end of the course, there were usually less than 150 graduates. A few left because of injuries or unwillingness to stick it out. The far greater number were eliminated because of rigorous peer-ratings or the training cadre’s decision that they weren’t cut out to be infantry platoon leaders.
As memories of the eighteen months I served in the training brigade came flooding back on Veteran’s Day, I was struck with an unwelcome but powerful realization. Had Donald Trump been an officer candidate, there is no possible way he would have made it to commissioning day. His behaviors in speech and actions would have led to an early dismissal from the school and orders to depart for Vietnam immediately. Based on what I experienced as an infantry platoon leader in combat, he would have had to serve in a unit filled with African-American and Hispanic soldiers. In the platoon I first led in Vietnam, there were 36 men of color and 7 whites, counting myself. Soldiers who did not find a way to cooperate and serve together for the benefit of the entire unit suffered harsh, sometimes lethal, consequences.
Now we have President-elect Donald Trump. He won election to the nation’s highest office in a brutal, hostile campaign; but he did win. Many Americans are proclaiming that he is not their President. But he is the President-elect, and he will be the President in January. We get one President at a time in America. Soldiers and Veterans know they don’t get to choose their commander-in-chief.
I am hoping Mr. Trump finally comes to realize he needs to serve all Americans with a firm purpose of ensuring “Liberty and Justice for all.” There were not many signs during the campaign that he does. But I am prepared to give him the same level of respect he displays for every American, regardless of their skin color, race, creed, political beliefs or sexual orientation.