By Chris Jennewein
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump wasn’t drafted during the Vietnam War because of a series of student deferments and then a diagnosis of bone spurs in his heels.
In another American war, nearly four decades later, Army Capt. Humayun Khan died when a taxi driven by a suicide bomber exploded in front of his post in Baghdad.
The two men’s dramatically different experiences explain volumes about the political divide in America and the issues at hand during this Presidential election.
Trump, the son of a wealthy New York developer, received student deferments while attending an Ivy League college. When he finished school, he was diagnosed with bone spurs and ruled not medically fit to serve.
The bone spurs he reportedly suffered from can cause pain and loss of motion in joints. Many Americans sought medical deferments during Vietnam, and while there’s no evidence Trump’s diagnosis was fake, he played college sports and is now an avid golfer.
The draft ended with Vietnam, but Khan volunteered. He was born in the United Arab Emirates and immigrated with his family at the age of 2. The Khan family, Muslims of Pakistani heritage, paid the ultimate sacrifice for American citizens, losing one of their three sons in 2004.
At the Democratic National Convention last week, Khan’s father said his son died for America and challenged Trump not to discriminate against Muslims.
“Tonight we are honored to stand here as parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims,” Khizr Khan said, his wife Ghazala in headscarf by his side. “If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.”
“You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” he said in his challenge to Trump.
Trump was quick to defend himself and challenge the Khans. In tweets and interviews, he said his success was due to “a lot of sacrifices,” questioned why Mrs. Khan hadn’t spoken, and described Khan’s speech as a vicious attack.
For once, Trump’s famous combative style may have failed him, as politicians and soldiers on all sides expressed outrage.
But the real takeaway from this is the gulf between a future commander-in-chief and a young army captain and his family who represent the best of the American immigrant story. They came to America in search of a better life and one of their sons died defending it.
Trump talks tough — bring back torture, order the military to kill the families of terrorists, destroy the ISIS oilfields — but he seems to have no understanding or appreciation of why American citizens fight to preserve and protect our country and its Constitution.
Maybe those bone spurs should also disqualify him from being President.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego. The draft was abolished the same month he turned 18.
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