As a public feud continues to rage between President Donald Trump, a congresswoman from Florida and the families of troops recently killed in Niger, a Gold Star mom has highlighted the condolence failings of another U.S. leader -- former President Barack Obama.
Julie Schrock, whose son, Marine Corps Cpl. Max Donahue, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, told The New York Post this week that not only did Obama not call her, he instead sent a letter with a computer-generated "autopen" signature.
And, worse still, the same letter was sent multiple times thanks to a computer glitch.
"I'm a Gold Star mother, and it pains me to see what is happening. The media bias is obvious to anyone willing to dig a little deeper than just believing what they hear on the news. When my son died, then-President Obama not only made no effort to reach out, but the condolence letter we received was signed by a computer. He didn't even sign the letter!" she told the Post.
"Then, when I received multiple copies of the letter, I was told there was a computer 'glitch' that wasn't fixed yet so more would probably keep coming and I should just throw them away. Not even a sorry!" she wrote.
How all presidents handle or have handled communications with the families of the fallen is likely to remain a subject of debate. What is clear, however, is that this has long been an issue over which presidents have struggled, and that many of them were not entirely consistent in how they communicated.
What's also clear is that the civilian community -- including the current president and lawmakers in both parties -- needs a lesson on the military community's largely unspoken Gold Star family code.
The code is this: Gold Star families forever have permission to publicly or non-publicly think and say whatever they want on the subject of military loss -- their loss or someone else's -- and the rest of us get to shut up and listen.
You may privately -- as in completely to yourself, in your head -- disagree. But you say nothing. You show quiet respect. You stand by them. You show up. You keep your opinions entirely to yourself.
And you apologize if you do something that offends them, including sending a parade of letters that you didn't actually sign or saying or doing something they find hurtful, even if you weren't actually wrong and even if they are acting crazy.
This isn't telling people only what they want to hear or walking on needles. This is respect for loss and a service to our nation that the rest of us can only begin to fathom.
No controversy. No criticism. The end.
Get it together, America.