Veteran and Gold Star Husband Joe Kent: Unlike Predecessors, President Trump Lets Us Fight and Win

Shannon Kent, Joe Kent’s late wife, was killed by a suicide bomber in Syria while on a mission against ISIS in January 2019. Joe Kent composed a column published on September 5 about his personal encounter with Trump at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. He wrote, “Trump came to Dover after my wife was killed fighting ISIS. He absolutely respects our service. I’d never met a president before Donald Trump. His empathy and thoughtfulness on one of the worst days of my life won my gratitude.

Joe Kent addressed the false allegations advanced by the Atlantic alleging Trump had denigrated American soldiers killed in action. He described the allegations as “hard to believe, especially considering the timing — right before an election — and also, most of the accusations were from 2017, 2018, and some even from 2019.”

Kent described his personal experience with Trump.

“I have first-hand experience with President Trump as a Gold Star family member. … So I felt like I had something relevant to add the conversation, and then also my perspective as a veteran,” Kent said. “My personal interactions [with] the president and everyone on his staff and his family have been nothing but exactly what the nation would expect. He’s been compassionate and caring,” Kent said.

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“I got the opportunity to speak with [Trump] one-on-one at Dover, which was unexpected,” Kent said. “I didn’t even think we’d get that opportunity, but President Trump came and obviously read a good to deal about Shannon and who she was, and we talked for a while about my wife and our family, so I knew the accusations were nothing but that.”

Kent served as a Green Beret under three presidents. He contrasted Trump’s leadership with former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“I served for the latter part of my career under President Trump in combat, and the difference was night and day from the previous two administrations,” Kent said.

Trump’s military policies demonstrate greater respect for military servicepersons than either Bush or Obama, Kent determined. “Looking at what President Trump is doing to get us out of the wars and decisively using military force only when necessary shows our troops the greatest respect, far greater than the two previous administrations, with their indecisive and seemingly endless wars.”

Kent noted Trump’s recalibration of the rules of engagement as a reflection of the president’s trust in U.S. armed forces that was not extended by Bush or Obama.

“I served under [Trump] from 2017 until I retired in 2018,” Kent said. “I did two combat deployments in that time. I saw President Trump free up our military to decidedly engage our enemies, in particular against ISIS. When Trump came on the scene, ISIS had taken over two countries, establishing a foothold in a third down there in Libya. President Trump came in and said, ‘What do we need to do to defeat this? Let’s delegate the authority down to the commanders on the ground. Let’s take care of business.'”

“I had been deployed to Iraq numerous times under both Bush and Obama,” Kent continued. “I had done a tour under Obama in the latter phases of his administration, and the hallmark of deployments in the Obama area were we’re over there because nobody wanted to pull us out. But there was no actual will to win, so we had people in harm’s way. We had people fighting and dying for the man and woman on the left and right of them and for our country, but there was no overall leadership providing direction and intent.”

Trump “took off the gloves” in removing excessively restrictive rules of engagement implemented by Bush and Obama and compromised the security of military personnel, Kent explained. “So the guys that had to fight the wars and bear the burden of ground combat, I think, are very motivated by someone like Trump who lets them use force when it’s necessary, but isn’t going to get us into a protracted conflict like we’ve been in … in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria, now, without any end in sight.”

Bush’s foreign policy was ideologically driven by a vision of exporting democratic values to non-democratic societies, Kent noted.

“Under Bush, it was all very ideological,” Kent said. “We were going to go change these governments and bring some form of democracy about that never really happened. Guys fighting and dying so Iraqis and Afghans could go vote in elections, which they didn’t necessarily really even believe in, and it really hasn’t accomplished anything.”

“So when Trump came in, 2016, and he went after the Republican establishment — the neo-conservatives, the regime change crowd — I was very impressed then, because everything he said reflected the truth on the ground as far as I could see it,” Kent added.

Kent explained that Trump, unlike his predecessors, was not bound by ideological or political myopia in pursuit of America’s national interest.

“[Trump has an] ability to kind of cut through the ideology, because he’s not tied up like other presidents [and] career politicians are,” Kent declared. “He’s just like a businessman. He can look at what’s actually gaining for us and what’s losing for us, and he doesn’t get emotionally attached to cutting things that are losing for us, for the United States.”

Kent shared that Bush, Obama, and ostensible foreign policy in foreign policy viewed Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s former director of terrorism, as off limits due to his role in the Iranian government. At Trump’s direction, Soleimani was killed by U.S. forces via drone strike in January 2020 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Trump’s decision to eliminate Soleimani “won him over with the war fighters [and] with the guys in the ground having to fight these wars,” Kent stated. “Qasem Soleimani was an Iranian terrorist responsible for most of Iran’s nefarious activity throughout the region. He was a terror mastermind that was very well known. He had the blood of over 1,000 Americans on his hands during the Iraq War.”

Soleimani was “somewhat untouchable because of his status within the Iranian government,” added Kent. “He was thought to be untouchable by President Bush and by President Obama. We had this guy in our sights multiple times, but he was always considered too big to take out. President Trump — as part of his maximum pressure campaign against Iran that included the full scope of our government, including sanctions — drew a firm red line and said, ‘If Iran touches an American, I will retaliate.'”

Trump does not view the American soldier “as a pawn on the chessboard,” remarked Kent, describing the U.S. military’s morale as elevated, relative to previous administrations.

“President Trump, in my personal interactions with him, he thought deeply about what the American game was, but he also was very conflicted about sending men and women off to die. I really respected that in the interactions that I had with him. He wasn’t callous about the loss of American life,” Kent concluded.

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