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Teresa English: Our President & State Representative Owe Veterans an Apology

Last week, The Atlantic published a well-sourced and deeply investigated article that exposed President Trump’s disgraceful comments about our military veterans, Missing in Action (MIA) soldiers, and Prisoners of War (POWs). As military veterans and descendants of military families, my husband, Ken, and I are deeply offended.

I can trace my family’s service and sacrifices in the military through every major conflict back to the Revolutionary War. My great-grandfather served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific in World War II. Both my father and Ken’s father served in the Marine Corps. We both have uncles in the U.S. Army, and my cousins have served and are still serving in every branch of our military. My uncle suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after his tours in Vietnam.

2001 USAF Basic Training Graduation Picture

In my family, I was the first to serve in the U.S. Air Force, from 2001 to 2003 as an intelligence analyst, before I was injured in training and honorably discharged. My husband Ken had his boots on the ground in Iraq, serving in the Marines from 2002 to 2005, when he was wounded in the line of duty; he continues to battle the effects of those injuries to this day. Ken and I have both lost dear friends in the line of duty, which is why Ken has a tattoo on his leg in honor and remembrance of his brothers and sisters who have sacrificed all in service to our country.

I took an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution, which includes standing up for our free press and for the freedom of speech. The shocking statements reported in The Atlantic article attributed to President Trump have been corroborated by numerous media organizations, including those considered both conservative- and liberal-leaning.

Almost as appalling as President Trump’s disparaging comments about our veterans, was his call for the firing of a journalist from Fox News who confirmed The Atlantic’s story. The free press is an important part of our democracy, and this comment from a leader who should be defending democracy rather than attacking it was completely out of line. Unfortunately, this action is consistent with the president’s tendency to label anything critical of him or his administration as “fake news.”

I am extraordinarily concerned that on Sept. 4 our incumbent state representative shared a tweet calling The Atlantic article “fake news.” Despite his lack of personal military experience, he has repeatedly positioned himself as a supporter of veterans. Given those claims, I would have hoped and expected that he stand up for our veterans and demand an apology from the president rather than discrediting the news media as he has done.

While it is hard for me to believe that anyone who loves our country could have uttered these insulting words, unfortunately, President Trump’s reputation precedes him. Despite the president’s recent denial that he called recently deceased decorated war hero and North Vietnamese POW survivor Senator John McCain a “loser,” President Trump was captured on video saying exactly that. I was disgusted in 2015 when Trump made this statement as a presidential candidate, and I’m deeply offended now to have read disparaging words coming from the mouth of the Commander in Chief of our military forces.

President Trump’s disdain for McCain is only one of numerous examples of his disrespect toward military veterans. Both the president and Billerica’s state representative owe apologies to our dedicated active duty and veteran service members.

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