In the days leading up to Memorial Day, I was saddened to read an article that quoted President Trump as follows:
"You know the stories were legendary, you don't hear bad things about the VA anymore," Trump said. "You used to turn on every night, you'd see a horror show. So I want to thank you, you've done a fantastic job, Robert."
Trump continued: "When you have civil service and you have unions and you have all of this for 40, 50 years they've been trying to get rid of it. That's, they don't take care of our vets, we fire them. Before you couldn't. They were sadists. They were thieves. And I think you've let go of more than 8,000 people, right? Who were terrible. They were trying to fire them for years. They didn't take care of our vets."
What the President didn't say was that the vast majority of those fired under the law he was bragging about were veterans themselves, many with disabilities they have as a result of their service.
This story and the President's words were despicable, especially because they were uttered in the midst of the pandemic and in the days leading up to Memorial Day, a day of mourning those who gave their very lives defending our country.
The only "sadists" and "thieves" are the ones who try to exploit this COVID-19 pandemic by profiting off the masks and other medical supplies that are so desperately needed by those on the front lines.
No Mr. President, when you have civil service and unions you have people who are devoted to public service, caring for veterans, and risking everything to keep American safe. That's what our civil servants and union brothers and sisters do every day, before, during and after the pandemic.
The front-line heroes in VA and DoD hospitals, military bases, federal prisons, the folks at CDC and FEMA and TSA and FSIS – they and countless other UNIONIZED civil servants are working every day to continue to serve America.
It is they who honor our fallen soldiers. It is they who understand that those who answered the call to duty and made the ultimate sacrifice did so in order to protect our nation and our democracy.
We cannot let the hateful words of the President go without challenge. But today is a somber day, a day of mourning and remembrance.
On this Memorial Day, I ask that all of AFGE take a moment to think of all of those who have died in defense of our country. Please include in your thoughts those who have died not only in wars and while in uniform, but also victims of terror and other acts of violence. I also ask that we remember the almost 100,000 Americans (and 345,000 across the world) who have perished from this plague of COVID-19. May we always honor their memory.
And I want to add my personal salute to all civil servants, to all union members, and to all who have served in the military.
Regardless of whether you served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. If you served in any of the five branches of service, I salute you.
As an Army Veteran myself, and as a civilian DoD employee and proud union member, I know all too well how those of us in public service put our lives on the line for their fellow citizens, for Americans to be protected and have freedom of democracy.
Even as we honor our fallen on this Memorial Day, we must again prepare ourselves to answer the call to duty to save our democracy, save our government, save our civil service, and save our union.
I don't say "Happy Memorial Day" because I observe this as a somber day of reflection and mourning our losses. But it is a day to be inspired by the courage of those who came before us, to continue their fight, and to make sure that we are worthy of their sacrifice. We are in the midst of our own "war" for survival of our civil service, our union, our democracy, and because of this pandemic, our very lives.
Let’s win one more war together AFGE!
Dr. Everett B. Kelley
AFGE National President