On August 6th, 2011, a Chinook helicopter carrying 30 American soldiers and 8 Afghan soldiers was shot down outside of Kabul. Of the 30 American soldiers, 17 were Navy SEALs, members of the elite Special Forces that are the best of the best that the American military has to offer. It was the single deadliest day for American forces since the Afghan War had begun.
While this is certainly tragic, what is even more tragic is level of respect our Commander-in-Chief showed towards their sacrifice. The families of these brave soldiers received a form letter, each exactly the same (save for the names and addresses), and all were signed with autopen. Disgraceful.
When I was six, I sent a letter to George H.W. Bush, telling him that I wanted to be an explorer or, maybe, a president. I received a booklet detailing the White House and a form letter, also signed with autopen. I was six, I had written a letter to the president, and I received the same treatment that the families of fallen Navy SEALs did. Who can tell me what is wrong with this picture?
President Obama’s unwillingness to pay tribute to the ultimate sacrifice of some of the greatest heroes this country has to offer is inexcusable. I will certainly admit that his job is as stressful as it is time consuming. He cannot be expected to be everywhere at once, and I fully accept that there is much that doesn’t make it onto his “to do” list. However, his predecessor seemed to be able to find the time for such matters.
According to the Washington Times, George W. Bush, in his eight years in office, wrote personal letters to the families of every single one of the troops killed in both the Iraq and Afghan Wars. At over 4,000 troops killed, this consumed a tremendous amount of time, but Bush found a way to do it. Furthermore, this went largely unnoticed and with little fanfare. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the biggest Bush fan, but I’ll be damned if that’s not impressive.
Furthermore, Bush met with over 500 families in person, and over 950 wounded soldiers during his time in office. If we compare that with Obama’s unwillingness to send a personalized letter to the families of the SEALs, it appears obvious that one Commander-in-Chief lacks commitment to the heroes who have fallen under his command.
However, Obama isn’t completely uncaring to the plight of the families of the deceased; last year, when rapper Heavy D died of a pulmonary embolism, President Obama sent a heartfelt letter of condolence to the family of the deceased rapper, and the letter was read by Al Sharpton at the funeral. The letter read,
“We extend our heartfelt condolences at this difficult time. He will be remembered for his infectious optimism and many contributions to American music. Please know that you and your family will be in our thoughts and prayers.”
Aw, that’s nice. If only Obama extended a fraction of the effort to the families of fallen SEALs as he did to the family of a deceased B-list rapper…
More than simply a benign slight or a mere oversight, Obama’s unwillingness to prioritize involvement with families of fallen soldiers signals a perversity of his priorities. Action indicates preference, and while it is possible to have a commitment fall through the cracks of a busy work schedule, I have seen nothing in this administration that has shown any meaningful commitment to the troops. His clumsy photo-ops come off as self-serving and his lip-service gratitude towards the troops is as rehashed and regurgitated as sentiments get. A man who cares about the troops is a man who would have learned how to pronounce “corpsman.”
The job of the president is demanding. I won’t argue otherwise. However, my logic is simple: if his predecessor could make the time to write letters to every family that lost a soldier, it is not asking too much to ask that the current president at least makes the time to actually sign the letters with his own hand. Maybe cutting out a single round of golf might allow him the time to fulfill his commitments…