The fact that we are still able to be appalled, if not surprised, by what Jeffrey Goldberg reported in his Atlantic article this week is some sort of tribute to our ability not to be completely numbed out by the daily deluge of ugliness, insensitivity and lies coming from this president. From our more than two decades of friendship, I know the impact his military service continues to have on Stephen. I also know he is definitely not a sucker.

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September 6, 2020

A veteran, not a sucker
by Stephen Merritt, Whidbey Island, Washington

One of my most vivid memories from my time in Vietnam is of helping to go through and pack up the personal effects of a member of my unit who died serving this country. I had moments of deep pain and sorrow as I realized that the box we were sending to his parents was all they were getting back, when what they sent over was their son.

It is clear from what was reported in The Atlantic article by Jeffery Goldberg that Trump thinks doing ANYTHING that is not transactionally based is stupid, for losers. The Marines who died in Belleau Woods in 1918 were SUCKERS….THAT’S WHAT HE SAID! John McCain was a LOSER…it goes on and on.

People join the military for a whole host of reasons. I did it because I wanted a college eduction and didn’t have good enough grades to get a scholarship. I was poor. I grew up in a church. I didn’t know anything about the world. When I went to bootcamp, they asked for volunteers for Vietnam. For the extra $65 a month, I said I’d go. I was in the Navy. How close to the war would I get? I had no idea what was ahead of me.

When I came back, I joined the protests against the war. I still believed in the things this country stood for but I now had seen enough to know that we were not living up to those principles. But that does not mean I am not proud of my service.

That service affected the whole course of my life: it led to an inability to complete things, procrastination, difficulty maintaining a primary relationship, feeling detached from family and friends, nightmares, memory issues, feelings of hopelessness, being on guard, feelings of guilt and shame…all symptoms of PTSD. It took years of therapy, a strong spirit, and learning how to love and care for myself to get to where I am, only to then be diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s because of exposure to Agent Orange in the Mekong Delta almost 50 years earlier.

The thought that ANY Vet could vote for Trump at this point is incomprehensible to me. To my fellow Vets—have the courage to look at the truth about this man whose daddy got him lots of deferments so he wouldn’t have to serve. By the way, did you see that Mary Trump, in her book about her uncle, writes that he said he would disown his own son if he joined the Military…It’s for LOSERS!

I just felt like I had to say something. We all have some way to serve over the next 57 days—I encourage each of you to find yours.

This is on us now, my friends.

Agent Orange was a powerful herbicide used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War to eliminate forest cover and crops for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. The U.S. program, codenamed Operation Ranch Hand, sprayed more than 20 million gallons of various herbicides over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from 1961 to 1971. Agent Orange, which contained the deadly chemical dioxin, was the most commonly used herbicide. It was later proven to cause serious health issues—including cancer, birth defects, rashes and severe psychological and neurological problems—among the Vietnamese people as well as among returning U.S. servicemen and their families.

The History Channel


  1. Thank you Stephen, for speaking out. Yes, hard to believe how any Vet could vote for Trump, harder still to fathom that this election is still up for grabs, that this deeply flawed human being in the White House has so effectively anesthetized such a vast swath of the American public that his words overule decency, truth, true patrioticism, respect for the rule of law, and plain old common sense. Just jaw dropping unbelievable … and very, very scary!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My father was a veteran of World War II. He was almost completely deaf since childhood. He taught himself to lip read and many did not realize he was challenged. He attempted to enlist in the army and was rejected due to his deafness. In a strange twist of fate, he was then drafted. And accepted. After training he was minutes away from being put on a plane for overseas assignment when he failed to follow an order he didn’t hear. The powers that be finally realized he was deaf and he was reassigned to a base in Texas to finish out his service.

    My father was fiercely patriotic. It informed his life in many ways. He was also fiercely Republican. I learned early to never discuss politics with him. But this would have been “a bridge too far” and I firmly believe he would have been appalled and disgusted. But I will go one step further than Stephen did in his amazing article. Most everyone had or has a relative who served this country in the military. How can they even begin the think of supporting this ugly, ugly man? I challenge them to think of their loved one as they vote in two short months.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stephen,
    Heartfelt thanks for sharing this window into your life. I am very moved by your story, and so sorry that you’ve paid and continue to pay such a high price for your service to our country. I think back to meeting you during the early days of Bet Alef and am humbled by the reminder of how much we don’t know about the people we encounter. Thank you also for the beautiful music you’ve provided over these many years. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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