- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 21, 2018

As President Trump kicked off his Thanksgiving holiday with a round of golf, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee called on the president to “start showing our troops the respect they deserve” by visiting U.S. soldiers in a war zone.

Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, said the tradition of presidents visiting troops overseas dates back to World War II. Mr. Trump has yet to make a trip to greet troops “downrange.”

“It would be good for President Trump and the nation if he started leading by example and doing more to honor our veterans and troops serving in harm’s way,” Mr. Reed said. “The president has many scheduling demands, but every prior president found time to visit our troops in active combat theaters. It’s time for President Trump to step up and recognize that our troops put their lives on the line every day with unrelenting devotion to our country.”

Mr. Trump was golfing Wednesday with Jack Nicklaus at the president’s course in Florida. The president said Tuesday that he’s planning to visit troops overseas soon.

Asked by a reporter if he is “afraid” to visit troops in combat, Mr. Trump replied, “No, I’m going to a war zone.”

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Wednesday that visiting a war zone is a decision for the president, adding that he has occasionally advised against visits to “certain locations” to avoid security risks.

“There’s places that I’ve been very straightforward I don’t want him to go at certain times,” Mr. Mattis said.

President Barack Obama first visited troops in a war zone in his third month in office, traveling to Iraq in April 2009, and made four trips to Afghanistan. President George W. Bush made a surprise Thanksgiving visit to troops in Iraq shortly after the invasion in 2003 and returned to the country three other times as president.

In addition to the criticism about not visiting troops downrange, Mr. Trump also has been criticized for failing to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day. He acknowledged in an interview with Fox News that he made a mistake, saying he was busy making phone calls on official business.

The president also raised eyebrows this week by criticizing retired Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the 2011 special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden, for not finding the terrorist leader sooner.

Mr. Reed noted that the Pentagon this week is delivering more than 300,000 pounds of traditional Thanksgiving food to U.S. troops deployed overseas and at the southwest border.

“I encourage President Trump to talk to the men and women serving on the front lines, look them in the eye, and listen to what they have to say,” Mr. Reed said. “As commander-in-chief, President Trump has committed these brave men and women to combat, and they are sacrificing and doing their best every day to carry out the mission. President Trump has a duty to let them know that America is grateful for their service.”

Mr. Reed’s office said the lawmaker has made 20 trips to Iraq and 17 to Afghanistan since 2003 to meet with U.S. forces, diplomats, and foreign officials, and to “get a firsthand look at national security developments on the ground.”

Mr. Reed graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served as an active duty officer in the Army from 1971 to 1979. Mr. Trump, like his predecessor, never served in the military.

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