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Joseph Sabino Mistick

Joseph Sabino Mistick: Crenshaw, not Trump, got it right on Veterans Day

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, 6:03 p.m.

Veterans Day is usually not controversial. And it should not be.

The official date has jumped around a little. Initially, it marked the date World War I ended. Congress switched it to a Monday in 1971, but President Gerald Ford restored it to Nov. 11, because that was sacred.

Sometimes the Veterans Day parades across the country cause a little dust-up. It might be a question of scheduling or a dispute over who gets to march in the parade.

Other than that, it has usually been a solemn recognition of the sacrifices our fellow citizens have made to secure for us the freedoms we enjoy every day. This year was different.

There were two controversies, one from the entertainment world and one at the highest level of our government. And, we learned more about the meaning of Veterans Day from a former Navy Seal and a young comedian than we did from our nation’s leaders.

On the Nov. 3 airing of “Saturday Night Live,” comedian Pete Davidson mocked Dan Crenshaw, then a candidate for Congress from Texas. Crenshaw lost his eye in an explosion in Iraq, and he wears a black eye patch.

Davidson’s wisecracking style failed this time. And much of America weighed in, expressing a level of outrage that we have come to expect these days. But, Crenshaw did everything possible to tamp it down.

Appearing on the next “SNL” broadcast, Crenshaw accepted Davidson’s apology. Then, with good humor, he said Davidson looks “like if the meth from ‘Breaking Bad’ was a person.” And he played his ringtone, a song by Ariana Grande, Davidson’s ex-girlfriend. It was great stuff.

But, Crenshaw’s final comments were serious. He said, “Americans can forgive one another. We can remember what brings us together as a country and still see the good in each other.”

Our elected leader had a different approach. Donald Trump traveled to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice. He insulted our allies and scowled a lot. He arrived late for events and mostly stayed in his room.

He skipped a visit to the American military cemetery near Belleau Wood, where nearly 2,000 American troops died in 1918. He said it was raining too hard, but the other Western leaders made it.

Once back home, he called for vote counting in Florida to stop before military ballots were counted. And, according to Fox News, neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence visited Arlington National Cemetery.

Trump’s attitude toward the military has always been hard to figure. He fancies generals, keeping them close. But he fails to honor those on the ground — belittling prisoners of war and insulting Gold Star families.

Maybe it’s because he never served. The truth is that most Americans will never serve in uniform, and many presidents have not had military experience. But this inability to honor the sacrifice of those who have shouldered the burden for the rest of us is deeply troubling.

Crenshaw is now a Congressman-elect, and he gets it right. He wrote in The Washington Post that he used his “SNL” appearance “to send a message of unity, forgiveness and appreciation for veterans.”

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at misticklaw@gmail.com.

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