Tuesday, August 2, 2016

An Open Letter to Donald Trump from a Purple Heart Veteran

An Open Letter to Donald Trump
from a Purple Heart Veteran
by Sean Davis

Mr. Trump,

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.

Sean Davis is the author of 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.


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    1. Thank you, Sean, for your service, for telling your story, and sharing your feelings about Donald Trump's behavior earlier today. I have been convinced for months that Trump has a narcissistic character disorder. I pity him. I honor you.

  2. Thank you Mr. Davis, not only for your service to our country and my family, but for,providing a perspective that is unique. I hope your wishes come true and that this man running for a political office that affects our entire world can feel the weight of the sacrifices made by so many in defense of freedom and human rights & dignity. Perhaps even just a tiny corner of his soul can begin to feel empathy and compassion for anyone other than self. It might be a start.

  3. Thank you for writing this. My father earned two purple hearts in WWII. EARNED them. He never spoke of it. I am offended in my father's name at Trump's callousness. I hope you are right, and Trump learns something from this - but I doubt it.

  4. Thank you to everyone who cared enough to read my words. I wrote this to Mr. Trump who I doubt will see it and if he did I doubt he'll care. But we may have a chance to change the minds of the people who vote for him. I see that as our real challenge. Thank you.

  5. Thank you Sean. We owe you, and we won't forget your words.

  6. If Mr. Trump truly "wanted" a Purple Heart, he perhaps wouldn't have tried for and received for so many deferments during the Vietnam War. I understand that he suffered greatly planning big golf courses and skyscrapers while thousands of men died in the service of their country. Looks like his sons have no plans to enlist either!!!! Let someone else fight for America's freedom--that is the Trump attitude. They are "too good" to give of themselves!!!

  7. Thank you, Sean--for writing this, and for your service and sacrifice. My father earned a Purple Heart in WWII as a member of the 442nd RCT.