The incoming commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars blasted billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump for criticizing Sen. John McCain for having "been captured" and held as a prisoner of war.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars had thought to drop discussion of Trump's disparaging remarks about McCain. In response to a number of media requests for comment during the group's annual convention this week, the group's media office offered only that its outgoing national commander had already addressed the issue and that VFW had more important things to work on.
But incoming National Commander John A. Biedrzycki decided to give his own take on Trump Tuesday during an interview with Military.com.
"I have a lot of respect for Mr. Trump and what he's done ... with his life. He lives in a country where he has the freedom to be a great man and make all the money he did," Biedrzycki said. "But where the hell did that [freedom] come from? It came on the backs of veterans who fought for this nation and kept it a free place, and to be a free enterprise system."
During an interview in Iowa last Saturday Trump rejected the notion that McCain was a war hero.
"He's not a war hero," he said dismissively before offering that McCain "is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured, okay?"
Former -VFW National Commander John Stroud slammed Trump for the remarks.
"For someone who never served a day in uniform to criticize the service and sacrifice of a combat-wounded veteran is despicable," he said.
Biedrzycki's strong feelings about Trump's comments are heightened for having just visited Hanoi, Vietnam, where he saw the former prison that POWs called "the Hanoi Hilton."
"I saw the conditions" they were kept in, he said, describing the stone pallets on which they slept, and a guillotine – left over from when the French ruled – in place to instill fear.
"It'll scare the hell out of you," he said.
McCain was a Navy pilot when he was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and held as a prisoner of war for more than five years, during which time he was tortured.
Trump, son of a millionaire real estate developer, received four deferments during the Vietnam War -- three for college and one for a bone spur in his foot -- according to his draft records acquired by The Smoking Gun website.
"I think it's ludicrous that [Trump] would think that a man who was serving on active duty, performing a military mission, was shot down in his aircraft and then taken prisoner and tortured is not a hero," Biedrzycki said. "I think Trump is a little off key. He's a little misguided there."
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org