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Former Pentagon Chief ‘Offended’ That Trump Hasn’t Called All Fallen Troops’ Families

Chuck Hagel, the secretary of defense in the Obama administration, said Thursday that President Trump’s snubbing of Gold Star families “sickens” him, The Hill reported.

“I’m offended by the way he’s handled it,” Hagel told USA Today, referring to recent revelations that Trump has not phoned or written to some of the relatives of U.S. military troops killed in action. “You just don’t use the families of the fallen to score political points, especially to take jabs at your predecessor. I’m very unhappy about this.” Trump falsely claimed that he had contacted all of the families, and that Barack Obama and other former presidents did not make the phone calls.

The family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the service members who died Oct. 4 in an ambush in Niger, did hear from Trump. However, the president apparently did not show much compassion when he called the soldier’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, while she was traveling to retrieve her husband’s remains. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Florida Democrat, recalled in a CNN interview that she was in the car with the grieving woman when Trump called and said: “He knew what he signed up for ... but when it happens it hurts anyway.”

Wilson described Myeshia Johnson as “very distraught after the call.” Trump blasted the congresswoman on Twitter, alleging that she had made up the story. The slain soldier’s mother confirmed the widow’s account of the phone call, according to The Washington Post.

Hagel ripped Trump for claiming that Obama did not place a phone call to offer his condolences to Gen. John Kelly when his son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. The retired Marine Corps officer is the current White House chief of staff. Hagel accused Trump of invoking the soldier’s name “to score political points” against Obama. “This is one issue in which all Americans should be able to come together,” the former defense secretary said. “There should be complete unity.”

Kelly addressed the issue Thursday at a press briefing. Referring to Trump, he told reporters: “He expressed his condolences in the best way that he could. It stuns me that a member of Congress (Wilson) would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. I would have thought that was sacred.”

Natasha De Alencar, whose husband died in Afghanistan in April, gave The Washington Post a recording of her phone call with Trump. She described the discussion as a “moment of niceness” in the midst of her family’s tragedy. “At that moment, when my world was upside down and me and my kids didn’t know which way we were going, it felt like I was talking to just another regular human,” she said.

During the call, Trump expressed regret about the “whole situation” and called Army Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar “an unbelievable hero.” The president also can be heard in the recording offering an invitation to the widow. “If you’re around Washington, you come over and see me in the Oval Office,” he said. That led to a conversation about the fallen soldier’s five children. Trump asked the mother to “tell them their father was a great hero that I respected.”

Source: The Hill
Photo: YouTube, IIP Photo Archive/Flickr

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