In 1968, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. At that time, it was unusual for a young woman to join the Army. But I was a soldier’s daughter, and I wanted to serve my country. At the time, the Vietnam War was at its peak. I strongly believed that hundreds of thousands of men being drafted should not be the only ones who bore the burden of defending our country.
For the next thirty-two years, I proudly served my country. Over the course of my career, I became the first woman in the Army to reach the rank of three-star general.
When I joined the military, it was rare for women to rise to more than a lieutenant colonel. Beyond that was almost unimaginable. But over the course of my career, I saw the Army become a more equitable place where Americans from every background were brought together by a shared commitment to serve and protect our nation.
That’s why I was shocked to see Donald Trump, a man who wants to be our Commander-in-Chief, viciously attack Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son Humayun was an Army captain and died protecting his unit in Iraq. In an interview with ABC News last month, Trump implied that Khizr had forbidden his wife Ghazala from addressing the Democratic convention. He even insisted that like the Khans, he had “made a lot of sacrifices.”
It was an unwarranted and bigoted attack on a Gold Star mother and a family who have given so much for our country. But Trump’s comments didn’t just reveal his insensitivity, bigotry and contempt for the values that have made our military the finest in the world. They profaned the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers and demeaned the military families who give so much in service to our country.
This isn’t the first time Trump has insulted and attacked our men and women in uniform and their families. The man who is seeking to become our next commander-in-chief has a long record of disparaging the men and women who have served this nation.
Last year, Trump said Arizona Senator John McCain, a former POW in Vietnam, was “not a war hero” and that “I like people that weren’t captured.” He has yet to apologize for these comments. Earlier this summer, he accused U.S. soldiers of stealing money in Iraq and Afghanistan. In January, Trump claimed to raise $6 million—including $1 million of his own money—for veterans causes. Just a few months later, The Washington Post revealed that Trump had only raised $4.5 million—and had yet to fulfill his $1 million pledge. This month, he received a Purple Heart as a gift from a veteran. He quipped about the gift, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”
For Trump, it seems veterans are little more than political props that he can conveniently use and then discard. With every insult, he shows just how unfit he is to be our next president.
Hillary Clinton has a remarkably different record when it comes to our veterans and our military families. For more than three decades, Hillary has been fighting for our men and women in uniform and their families. She is the daughter of a World War II veteran and grew up learning to respect and value our men and women in uniform. As a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee, she fought to expand care for veterans suffering from PTSD and raise the military survivor benefit from $12,000 to $100,000. Hillary has laid out a concrete plan to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs and ensure that our veterans have access to the best quality care. And she’s committed to ensuring that military spouses—who also sacrifice so much for our country— are able to pursue their own education and careers.
In less than 80 days, our country faces a stark choice. We can either elect Hillary Clinton, a woman who has honorably served our country on the global stage and advocated for our men and women in uniform and their families. Or we can choose Donald Trump, who desecrates the memory of our fallen soldiers, insults our families, and actively undermines the values that have made our military a stronger, more inclusive and fairer fighting force.
For this veteran, the choice is clear.