Our Military is Still at War, Mr. President

A respectful reminder to the commander-in-chief that his words matter, especially during wartime.

A U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Sgt. Maj. James "Ryan" Sartor on July 15, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

By Tom Sileo Published on July 26, 2019

“We’re not fighting a war,” President Trump said on July 22. “If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week.”

The commander-in-chief was speaking in the Oval Office before a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“We’ve been there for 19 years and we’ve acted as policemen, not soldiers,” the president also said.  “Again, if we wanted to be soldiers, it would be over in ten days — one week to ten days, if we wanted to.”

Let’s be clear. Our military is absolutely still fighting a war in Afghanistan, where a decorated U.S. Army Green Beret was killed in action on July 13. Sergeant Major Ryan Sartor wasn’t deployed to Afghanistan as a policeman; he was an American soldier.

This column isn’t about whether or not to support President Trump during his re-election campaign. It’s about always supporting our troops during a time of war.

Regardless of where you stand politically, the commander-in-chief’s comments were inappropriate and potentially damaging to morale inside the military community, which has done nothing but serve and sacrifice for our freedom since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

There’s no doubt in my mind that President Trump cares deeply about our troops and veterans. I also appreciate the fact that he was speaking off the cuff. Yet the commander-in-chief’s words greatly matter, especially when valiant Americans are still laying down their lives during a war he’s ordered them to fight.

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Last week, I became Facebook friends with Sgt. Maj. Sartor’s grieving mother, Terri Pryor. Through her posts, I have been following the family’s journey as an American hero is saluted and remembered. The outpouring of love and prayers for the loved ones of Sgt. Maj. Sartor, whose funeral will be held Saturday at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, has been deeply inspiring.

I certainly don’t believe President Trump meant to dishonor this American hero’s ultimate sacrifice with his July 22 comments, but he did. Saying things like “we’re not fighting a war” and “we’ve acted as policemen, not soldiers” as a valiant soldier is laid to rest is disrespectful to a Special Forces warrior who served seven deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Over 2,400 U.S. service members have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan since 9/11. Donald Trump is the third American president to oversee America’s longest war. If he believes the conflict is no longer worth fighting, President Trump has a moral obligation to immediately end the war. Not one more soldier, sailor, airman or Marine should be killed or wounded in Afghanistan if the commander-in-chief doesn’t believe in their mission.

Again, I didn’t write this column to bash President Trump. I wrote it to defend the selfless patriots who defend us. Like those currently serving, the hundreds of veterans and Gold Star family members I’ve spoken with over the past decade have put everything on the line to keep us safe. America’s military community doesn’t deserve mixed messages, but rather our universal praise.

Earlier this week, Sgt. Maj. Ryan Sartor’s mother posted a poem inspired by the immortal words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

God built me a son who was strong enough to know when he was weak, and brave enough to face himself when he was afraid; one who was proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

God built me a son whose wishbone was not where his backbone should be; a son who knew Thee and that to know himself was the foundation stone of knowledge. You lead him not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. He learned to stand up in the storm and had compassion for those who failed.

God built me a son whose heart was clean, whose goals were high; a son who mastered himself before he sought to master other men; one who learned to laugh, yet never forgot how to weep; one who reached into the future, yet never forgot the past.

Because of you O God I, as his mother, will whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

At this hour, our country’s sons and daughters are still fighting a war. It is the sacred duty of all Americans to support them.


Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of 8 Seconds of CourageBrothers Forever and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg

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