An Open Letter to Donald Trump
from a Purple Heart Veteran
by Sean Davis
This morning, I heard retired Lieutenant Colonel Louis Dorfman gave you his Purple Heart. Having a Purple Heart myself, knowing what it takes to get that medal, knowing the toll that award has taken on me, both mentally and physically, I can’t stop thinking about this.
You probably don’t know the Purple Heart was established by George Washington during the Revolutionary War. It was the first award in our military. Today, the Purple Heart is “awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action.”
In my case, it was a violent and coordinated ambush in Taji, Iraq. A vehicle packed with munitions exploded next to my Humvee while we were on a patrol to find and arrest a suspected arms dealer. The blast critically injured me and killed my gunner, and dear friend, instantly. We both received Purple Hearts that day. My driver pulled me out of the truck and when a secondary explosion went off, he shielded me from the blast with his own body, taking shrapnel in his arm and back. He received a Purple Heart that day. Another good friend ran while under direct fire with a medic bag to try to help us and the secondary explosion critically injured him. He also received a Purple Heart that day.
So, when I heard you quip, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier,” my first reaction was anger and indignation. How could someone give something I hold sacred to you, a person so full of hate and ignorance? Why would anyone give this award I hold so precious to a man who so obviously has no idea what it really means?
But the truth of the matter is, I don’t own the medal, Mr. Trump. I don’t own war, and I surely don’t own being a veteran. I only own my past and what I believe. It took me years to come to this conclusion.
So, please give me a minute of your time and keep reading. I gave my Purple Heart to my nine-year-old son when I first came back, twelve years ago. He saw my bandages and later my scars. He also saw how the war changed me. I gave him my Purple Heart with the hope that it would help him understand sacrifice and duty. Not just my own, but my brothers who died and the others who were wounded, as well as all the men and women who risk their lives to defend our great country.
My son has grown to be a fine young man that I am proud of and love dearly. I do believe that giving him the medal helped in some way. So I want to believe that this retired lieutenant colonel giving you his Purple Heart is a good thing. I want to believe this because, considering the number of times you have superficially invoked war veterans, you obviously need to learn more about sacrifice and duty. These are two topics that weigh heavy on all veterans. These are two topics, taking in account your dispute with Gold Star families, you desperately need to understand.
My hope is that you don’t give that medal to a staffer to file away and lose. My hope is that you hold that heart-shaped medal in your hand and feel the weight of it. I sincerely wish it crushes you at first. You need to come to a realization, Mr. Trump. Veterans and their family members are not props. Sacrifice and duty is how we’ve lived our lives and we understand that these are the foundations our great country was built on, and it is our duty to ensure no one, not even a presidential candidate with billions of dollars, trivializes or belittles our sacrifice.
The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and a community leader in Northeast Portland, Oregon. Sean has fought in a revolution, a war, and helped save lives in New Orleans during Katrina. He’s a wildland firefighter during the summers and currently teaches writing at Mt. Hood Community College and Clackamas Community College. For more on The Wax Bullet War, see this earlier post at The Quivering Pen.