Donald Trump criticised by veterans for wearing military style outfit despite 'dodging' Vietnam draft

President is not first to have donned military garb but is first to have insulted a Gold Star family

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The Independent US

Donald Trump has been criticised by veterans for donning a military style bomber jacket and cap while visiting a Navy ship, despite receiving five deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam.

Speaking in Virginia, the President promised to expand the US Navy to 12 carriers before an audience of sailors on the new USS Gerald R Ford. 

But some critics accused Mr Trump of ‘cosplaying’ as a military man and highlighted his five deferrals from the conflict in the sixties. 

Mr Trump told an audience of sailors and shipbuilders: “You know what; they just gave me this beautiful jacket. They said, ‘Here Mr President, please take this home.’”

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“I said, ‘Let me wear it,’ and then they gave me the beautiful hat and I said, ‘You know, maybe I’ll do that’. We have a great ‘Make America great again’ hat but I said, ‘This is a special day, we’re wearing this, right?’”

John McFarland, a veteran and military analyst, said on Facebook: “I realise Trump rates a salute as Commander in Chief and he can wear a command cap if he's comfortable doing so, but that doesn't mean we sailors and other vets have to approve of it. 

“This clown got five deferments when his generation was called. Instead of serving, he dodged, ducked and weaved. 

“If he had any self-awareness he wouldn't stride around ship in that cap and jacket like he rates anything aside from what custom and courtesy dictate. All the while scowling like a tough guy.”

This sentiment was echoed by other veterans.

Four of Mr Trump’s deferrals from the military during the Vietnam war were granted because he was still studying, and a fifth was given for "bone spurs" in 1968, which some have questioned as Mr Trump was reported to be active in sports at the time. 

The President has never released the “very strong” medical documentation which he told the New York Times enabled him to avoid service. He said the condition healed “over a period of time”.

Mr Trump is not the first President to have worn a military style outfit. 

Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr and George Bush Jr have also donned costumes and drawn the ire of veterans and public alike.

And neither is it the first time a President has been subject to a draft controversy. Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign was fraught by revelations he declined to join the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and that his uncle had attempted to get him into the Navy Reserve, which would have prevented him seeing combat. 

George W Bush’s service record in the Texas Air National Guard also received scrutiny because he lost his flying status after not taking a physical exam.

However, no President has publicly insulted veterans and their families in the way Mr Trump has.

During his campaign, Mr Trump attacked Khizr and Ghazla Khan, Muslim parents of slain veteran Captain Humayan Kahn, after they spoke out against him. Mr Trump said Ms Khan “wasn’t allowed to have anything to say” when her husband addressed the Democratic Party convention.

In 2015, he also attacked Republican Party grandee, John McCain, who was taken prisoner and tortured during the Vietnam conflict. 

“He’s not a war hero,” Mr Trump told a conference. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

More recently, at his first address to Congress, he paid tribute to Carryn Owens, the widow of a Navy Seal killed in Yemen on the first military operation he approved.

While some praised his actions as Presidential, others said he exploited Ms Owens for the “record” applause.

The Ford carrier Mr Trump toured on Thursday will become the eleventh carrier-class ship in the US Navy when it is commissioned later this year.

Despite the President's claim that forming "the 12-carrier Navy we need" would be part of his military expansion plans, the contract for a twelfth carrier was in fact awarded back in 2009.

The USS John F Kennedy is already under construction, and scheduled for commission in 2020.

The US already has far more carriers than all the other nations of the world put together, and its 100,000-ton Nimitz ships dwarf all others. The new Ford class of carrier is just three metres longer than the Nimitz class, but hosts a range of significantly more advanced systems.