Here's How 'Cadet Bone Spurs' Dishonors Our Troops

Back in the 1960s, with the war in Vietnam raging and young Americans getting killed every day, it cost about $1,000 to dodge the draft. You got an automatic deferment for college, but once you graduated, or if you dropped out, you went back to 1-A status, which meant you were eligible for military service and could be drafted.


The holy grail during the Vietnam war was to become 4-F, the draft status our president, Donald Trump, achieved with a letter from a doctor confirming that he had “bone spurs” on his heels which made him ineligible for military service. That’s where the $1,000 came in. If you had enough money, you could go to a dentist, or a doctor, enough times that you could establish a medical record for a disability that made it appear like you were not medically fit to serve.

The ability of a significant number of young American men to essentially buy their way out of the draft left service in the military to those who couldn’t fake stuff like spurious “bone spurs” to dodge the draft. When I served in the Army at that time, draftees were nearly uniformly from the inner cities or the poorer areas in rural America, like the deep South, Appalachia and thinly populated states like Idaho, Montana, Nevada and the Dakotas.

The draft began to apply to a smaller and smaller section of the country, but the war in Vietnam was chewing up recruits as fast as they could ship them over there. A total of 58,220 would be killed in Vietnam. Another 304,000 soldiers were wounded, out of a total of 2.7 million who served in Vietnam.

As it got harder and harder for the Selective Service to fill the ranks, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara came up with an experiment the Pentagon called “Project 100,000.” This was a program that lowered standards for military eligibility, dropping the lowest allowable scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test down to Category IV, scores in the 10 to 30 percentile range. In addition to lowering the standards for “mental aptitude," Project 100,000 also allowed men to be drafted who could not speak English and had “minor” physical impairments, along with those who had previously been deemed too overweight or underweight to serve.

Over 300,000 are estimated to have been drafted under Project 100,000. In those days in the Army, the Project 100,000 draftees were called the “Moron Corps” and “cannon fodder.”

That’s what this country did to fill the ranks of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines at a time when we were at war. Today, we’re at war again, more or less officially in three countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. We have troops serving overseas in at least 140 countries, including 800 on the continent of Africa in hotspots like Somalia, Niger and Congo, where ISIS terrorists are recruiting and attempting to expand their influence.

What is the Trump administration doing? Why, it was attempting to discharge transgender troops already serving until that policy was stopped by an injunction in a Federal District Court. The Jeff Sessions Department of Justice has filed an appeal seeking to overturn that injunction as well as an injunction against allowing transgender people to volunteer for the service.

So far, they have been unsuccessful with those appeals, but that hasn’t stopped the Trump administration from discriminating against transgender recruits. According to The New York Times, “scores” of transgender people have tried to volunteer for the service, “but almost none are being accepted.”

“The applicants are being stalled or turned away at a time when some branches of the military face a shortage of recruits, and when recruiters have been ordered to work Saturdays to try to make up the shortfall,” according to the Times.

One potential transgender recruit, Nicholas Blade, has been waiting six months for his application to serve in the Air Force to be accepted. “I’m now on round five of rejections,” said Blade. “Each time, they say they need even more medical information.” Another transgender recruit submitted medical records for five months before being rejected because of a knee surgery, an operation that took place 25 years ago when the recruit was an infant, according to the Times.

The Chiefs of Staff of the Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard testified before Congress last spring that transgender troops present no negative issues in their service. According to the Times, General Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Congress, “As long as they can meet the standard of what their particular application was, I think we’ll move forward.”

Trump isn’t satisfied with demonizing transgender troops, however. According to the Associated Press, the Army has begun discharging immigrant soldiers and recruits who enlisted through a special program that would put them on a path to citizenship.

The AP was unable to find out how many immigrants have been discharged, but immigration attorneys said more than 40 have either been discharged or left with an uncertain enlistment status. “Some of the service members say they were not told why they were being discharged,” the AP reported. “Others who pressed for answers said the Army informed them they’d been labeled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.”

Department of Defense spokespeople told the AP they could not respond to questions about the discharges or comment on whether or not there has been a change in policy regarding immigrants, because of pending lawsuits.

So while Trump’s Department of Defense has recruiters working overtime to try to fill the ranks with the troops they need to fight three wars and serve overseas in deployments to 140 countries, they are demonizing transgender Americans and immigrants who are volunteering to serve, and either discharging them or refusing them as military recruits.

Trump has no knowledge of or respect for the service immigrants and the children of immigrants have given this country in our military. The 442nd Infantry Regiment, which was comprised almost entirely of second generation Japanese Americans who volunteered to serve while being confined in internment camps, was the most highly decorated Army unit in World War II. Out of the 14,000 Japanese Americans who served in the 442nd, 9,486 earned Purple Hearts. They were awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations, with five of them coming in a single month, and 21 members of the 442nd earned Medals of Honor. I have a photograph of my grandfather, General Lucian K. Truscott Jr., pinning a Medal of Honor on the chest of one guy in the 442nd. The Japanese American regiment served under him in Eastern France during the war.

Trump and his administration are a disgrace and a stain on the honor of the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of immigrants and other minorities who have served this country in our military over the last two-plus centuries. The man who dodged the draft five times cares more about the rank prejudice of his “base” than he does about the national security of this country. 

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