Why Trump Congratulating A Veteran For His Purple Heart Is So Inappropriate
President Trump stopped by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday, where he awarded a Purple Heart to a war veteran. And there's nothing wrong with that: The Purple Heart is awarded to military members who sustained injuries or were killed during their service, and Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos had to have his leg amputated after serving in Afghanistan. What is problematic, however, is that Trump didn't thank Barrientos for his service. Instead, Trump congratulated the veteran for his Purple Heart, which is being received as really, really inappropriate.
"I heard about this, I wanted to do this myself," Trump said, according to CNN, as he placed the Purple Heart on Barrientos' lapel. "Congratulations on behalf of Melania and myself and the entire nation. Tremendous, tremendous job, congratulations."
To be entirely clear, there's nothing wrong with thanking a veteran for enlisting in the military. But that's not what Trump did. He said "Congratulations." But congratulations for what, exactly? Barrientos received the Purple Heart because he suffered a life-changing injury during his service to the United States. People congratulate others for things that they've achieved, not for unfortunate hardships that they've had to endure at a great expense.
In other words, Trump congratulated Barrientos for losing a limb, which is... honestly, I'm not even sure what the word is for that, but I certainly don't think it's "respectable" or "good." Neither do I think it respectable to say that Barrientos did a "tremendous job" losing said limb.
Amazingly, or perhaps not amazingly, this isn't the first time Trump has made a tone-deaf remark about the Purple Heart. As a candidate for president, he was gifted a Purple Heart by Lt. Col. Louis Dorfman at a rally. In response, Trump said that "I always wanted to get the Purple Heart," and that being given one "was much easier" than earning one. Trump has never served in the military, and according to The New York Times, he received five deferments in order to avoid being drafted.
The Purple Heart is one of the nation's greatest honors, but I don't think it's something that should inspire joy and happiness or a tone-def "congratulations." Rather, it's a sobering reminder of the excruciatingly painful sacrifices that many service members pay during their tours of duty. But Trump doesn't seem to see it like that, which is problematic to say the very least.