Trump Will Never Understand Marines Like Me | Opinion

I vividly remember the first time I encountered death in the Marine Corps. I was a first lieutenant and my company's executive officer in Afghanistan. It was daytime in early December 2010. I was running my unit's combat operations center when Marines in an area several kilometers away started scrambling to save the life of a fellow Marine who was critically injured by an improvised explosive device.

I listened over the radio to monitor the casualty evacuation. The difficult terrain, IED-infested roads and distance made it almost impossible to send vehicular support. The Marines at the scene did their best to stabilize their injured squadmate and sent for an air evacuation. I'll never forget the moment the helicopters went "wheels up," as they flew the Marine to urgent medical care.

We learned the next day that the Marine had died. After months of seeing serious injuries across the battalion, I remember that night changing everything for me. I learned to truly hate war. After four years in the U.S. Naval Academy and seven years of honorable service in the U.S. Marine Corps, I resigned from my commission as a captain in 2012.

I've seen Marines and sailors injured in more ways than I care to recall. Despite the danger, as well as the many times we disagreed on serious issues, we always pulled together in a fight. I never doubted that I could trust the Marines in my units with my life.

Those memories, both good and traumatic, will always be seared into my mind. In some ways, I will never stop being a Marine. I will never forget the names of the Marines who never returned from their tours of duty. I will never forget the Marines who returned but faced so many demons that the rigors of combat ultimately claimed their lives through suicide. We memorialize our fallen soldiers not just to honor them but also to cope with the shattering pain of their loss. I could not have moved on from their death without a proper and dignified farewell.

It is with these memories in my mind that I must emphatically rebuke our commander-in-chief for his comments reported in The Atlantic last week, which have been independently confirmed by the Associated Press, The Washington Post and other outlets, such as Fox News. The president's alleged disparagement of America's military dead—including more than 1,800 Marines slain in combat at Belleau Wood in World War I—is shockingly careless and cruel. It is hard to imagine an elected leader calling fallen soldiers "losers" and "suckers."

And yet, I am not surprised. The president has a clear record of disrespecting and dishonoring our military service and our sacrifice.

I remember his comments about the late Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war and distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, using the same word: "loser."

I remember his attacks on Gold Star families, including Khizr and Ghazala Khan, as they grieved the loss of their son who died in uniform in Iraq.

I remember his casual, revolting cruelty as he joked about war crimes, only to be craven and foolish enough years later to pardon actual war criminals.

U.S. Marine Kyle Bibby
Kyle Bibby is photographed in 2010 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, where he served as a Marine infantry officer.

Such disrespect for military service and sacrifice would be vile for any American—let alone a commander-in-chief. Our nation cannot continue with its highest office being held by the lowest man it could muster. Throughout our history, far too many have sacrificed far too much for the United States to be disgraced and torn apart by a man who cannot fathom the concept of service. Trump will never understand Marines like me.

As an officer, I was taught that a commander must exhibit unyielding physical, mental and moral fitness. We must be citizens of punctilious courtesy with a sense of personal honor, and we must be strong enough to be gentle. Our president is bereft of these characteristics. His disrespect for them is matched only by his selfishness.

Knowing this, a challenge awaits the people of this nation: Can we put aside our personal and political differences, as service members do, and fight together to remove this man from office and bring dignity back to our nation?

I hope America remembers the sacrifices of the legions of veterans who were willing to die to secure our way of life. I hope America doesn't look away from the cruel words of our commander-in-chief. And I hope America unites in its rejection of a president who has debased us all. We must not fail to act this November. Remove Donald Trump, and let's begin our healing as a nation.

Kyle Bibby is a graduate of the Naval Academy, former Marine Corps infantry officer and veteran of the Afghanistan War.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.