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

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Donald trumped greets families of the fallen in ~ Arlington national Cemetery on Memorial work 2017. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty)

When chairman Donald trump card canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, that blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and also that the mystery Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither case was true.

Trump rejected the idea that the visit because he fear his hair would come to be disheveled in the rain, and also because the did not think it essential to honor American war dead, follow to four civilization with firsthand knowledge of the conversation that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, trumped said, “Why need to I walk to that cemetery? it’s filled through losers.” In a separate conversation ~ above the exact same trip, Trump referred to the much more than 1,800 marines who shed their lives at Belleau timber as “suckers” for gaining killed.

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Belleau timber is a consequential fight in American history, and the soil on which the was fought is venerated through the marine Corps. America and its allies stopped the German breakthrough toward Paris over there in the spring of 1918. Yet Trump, ~ above that same trip, asked aides, “Who were the an excellent guys in this war?” He also said the he didn’t understand why the United claims would intervene on the side of the Allies.

Trump’s understanding of ideas such as patriotism, service, and sacrifice has actually interested me because he expressed contempt because that the war document of the late Senator john McCain, that spent an ext than 5 years together a sinner of the phibìc Vietnamese. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015 while to run for the Republican nomination because that president. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

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There to be no precedent in American national politics for the expression that this type of contempt, yet the performatively patriotic Trump did no damage to his candidacy by attack McCain in this manner. No one did he set his campaign earlier by attack the parental of Humayun Khan, an military captain who was eliminated in Iraq in 2004.

Trump continued to be fixated on McCain, among the few prominent republic to continue criticizing him after he won the nomination. Once McCain died, in respectable 2018, Trump told his senior staff, follow to three resources with direct knowledge the this event, “We’re not going to assistance that loser’s funeral,” and he came to be furious, follow to witnesses, as soon as he witnessed flags lower to half-staff. “What the fuck room we doing that for? male was a fucking loser,” the chairman told aides. Trumped was no invited come McCain’s funeral. (These sources, and others quoted in this article, speak on condition of anonymity. The White house did not return previously calls because that comment, but Alyssa Farah, a White house spokesperson, emailed me this statement quickly after this story was posted: “This report is false. President Trump holds the armed forces in the greatest regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: transporting on his promise to give our troops a lot needed pay raise, enhancing military spending, signing vital veterans reforms, and also supporting military spouses. This has actually no communication in fact.”)

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Trump’s expertise of heroism has actually not evolved due to the fact that he came to be president. According to sources with knowledge of the president’s views, he seems to genuinely not understand why americans treat former prisoners that war v respect. No one does he know why pilots who room shot down in combat room honored through the military. Top top at least two occasions due to the fact that becoming president, according to three resources with direct knowledge that his views, trumped referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a “loser” because that being shot under by the Japanese together a navy pilot in people War II. (Bush escaped capture, yet eight other guys shot down throughout the same mission were caught, tortured, and executed by Japanese soldiers.)

When lashing the end at critics, Trump regularly reaches for illogical and also corrosive insults, and members that the bush family have actually publicly protest him. However his cynicism about service and heroism extends even to the human being War i dead hidden outside Paris—people who were killed more than a quarter century before he was born. Trump finds the concept of military service challenging to understand, and also the idea of volunteering come serve especially incomprehensible. (The president did no serve in the military; he got a medical deferment indigenous the draft during the Vietnam War since of the alleged existence of bone spur in his feet. In the 1990s, Trump claimed his initiatives to stop contracting sexuallytransfer diseases made up his “personal Vietnam.”)

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On Memorial day 2017, Trump saw Arlington nationwide Cemetery, a short drive native the White House. He to be accompanied top top this visit by john Kelly, that was climate the secretary of homeland security, and also who would, a quick time later, be called the White residence chief that staff. The two guys were set to visit section 60, the 14-acre area that the cemetery the is the burial ground because that those eliminated in America’s many recent wars. Kelly’s child Robert is hidden in section 60. A an initial lieutenant in the naval Corps, Robert Kelly was eliminated in 2010 in Afghanistan. He to be 29. Trump was meant, ~ above this visit, to join John Kelly in payment respects in ~ his boy grave, and to comfort the family members of various other fallen business members. However according to resources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, when 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 decreased to comment because that this story) initially believed, world close come him said, the Trump was making a ham-handed referral to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. However later he involved realize the Trump just does not know non-transactional life choices.

“He can not fathom the idea of doing something because that someone various other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retirement four-star general, called me. “He simply thinks that anyone that does anything when there’s no direct an individual gain to be had actually 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.”

I’ve asked plenty of general policemans over the past year because that their evaluation of Trump’s seeming contempt for army service. They offer a variety of explanations. Some of his cynicism is rooted in frustration, lock say. Trump, uneven previous presidents, has tendency to believe that the military, like various other departments the the commonwealth government, is beholden only to him, and also not the Constitution. Many senior officers have expressed worry around Trump’s expertise of the rules governing the usage of the armed forces. This issue involved a head in beforehand June, throughout demonstrations in Washington, D.C., in response to police killings of black color people. James Mattis, the retired maritime general and also former secretary that defense, lambasted trumped at the time for ordering law-enforcement policemans to forcibly clean protesters indigenous Lafayette Square, and also for using soldiers together props: “When ns joined the military, part 50 year ago, ns swore one oath come support and also defend the Constitution,” Mattis wrote. “Never did ns dream that troops taking that exact same oath would be notified under any type of circumstance to hurt the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to carry out a bizarre photograph op for the chosen commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”

Read: James Mattis denounces chairman Trump, explains him together a hazard to the Constitution

Another explanation is more quotidian, and aligns with a more comprehensive understanding that Trump’s material-focused worldview. The president believes the nothing is worth doing there is no the promise of monetary payback, and that talented civilization who don’t go after riches space “losers.” (According come eyewitnesses, after ~ a White house briefing given by the then-chairman the the joint Chiefs of Staff, general Joe Dunford, trump turned come aides and also said, “That male is smart. Why walk he join the military?”)

Yet another, related, explanation involves what appears to it is in Trump’s pathological are afraid of showing up to look prefer a “sucker” himself. His capacious an interpretation of sucker includes those who shed their resides in company to their country, and also those who room taken prisoner, or are wounded in battle. “He has actually a most fear,” one officer v firsthand understanding of Trump’s see said. “He doesn’t see the heroism in fighting.” several observers said me that Trump is deep anxious around dying or gift disfigured, and also this worry manifests itself together disgust for those who have actually suffered. Trumped recently claimed that he has received the body of slain organization members “many, many” times, however in fact he has traveled come Dover Air force Base, the transfer suggest for the continues to be of fallen organization members, only 4 times due to the fact that becoming president. In one more incident, trumped falsely asserted that that had dubbed “virtually all” that the families of company members who had passed away during his term, then began rush-shipping condolence letter when households said the president was not informing the truth.

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Trump has been, for the term of his presidency, fixated top top staging military parades, however only the a certain sort. In a 2018 White residence planning conference for such an event, Trump inquiry his staff no to incorporate wounded veterans, on grounds the spectators would feel uncomfortable in the visibility of amputees. “Nobody wants to check out that,” he said.