My Uncle Was A ‘Loser’

All the men in the older generation of my extended Greek family volunteered to serve in World War II. The war left a hole in my family. My father’s younger brother, Captain William Peter Athas, was killed in action in Italy on March 3, 1944. He was 26 years old and scheduled to return home in a matter of days.

My father rarely talked about the war. That was commonplace among veterans of his generation: they did their bit then wanted to go home and see their families. Lou served as a translator in the Pacific Theatre. In its infinite wisdom, the Army taught him Japanese. They decided that someone who was fluent in Greek with its Cyrillic alphabet could handle Japanese. They were right. He turned down a promotion at the end of the war because he would have been stationed in Tokyo. It was time to return home to try and fill the hole in his family.

My father was the classic oldest child of his time and place. He was dutiful and respectful to his parents’ wishes. Bill Athas, by all accounts, was something of a scamp who was legendary for his charm and good looks. At my dad’s funeral, there was much reminiscing about the uncle I never knew. One of the older cousins described him as, “A dreamboat who was my first crush.”

I wish I knew more about Uncle Bill, but the subject was too painful for my father and his sisters to discuss at any length. I already knew that he won the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the invasion of Italy. But I learned something new from the archives at my grandparents didn’t initially believe that Bill was dead because they’d just received letters from him. I suspect that not was uncommon in those days of slower communication. I can feel their pain 76 years later.

Nobody in my family ever expressed bitterness over my uncle’s death. He did his duty for his country during a just war and made the ultimate sacrifice. Donald Trump would have called him a loser or a sucker since there was nothing in it for Bill except for two medals that my dad kept in a drawer in his dresser. One of the medals was the one that nobody wants to get: the Purple Heart.

Jeffrey Goldbergs’s Atlantic piece, Trump: Americans Who Died In War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’ is the most plausible terrible Trump story ever. The man has said similarly horrible things before in public. The meltdown the Kaiser of Chaos is having in the wake of the story confirms that it’s true as does an AP story that supports Goldberg’s reporting. The military has a Commander-in-Chief who values his own hair above their fallen comrades:

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

Belleau Woods was the battle that turned the tide in the Great War. Their German enemies were so impressed with the Marines’ valor and ferocity that they dubbed them the “Devil Dogs” a nickname that they still wear as a badge of honor. They were heroes, not losers and suckers.

I have a strong feeling of schadenfreude today. During the Bush-Cheney administration, the GOP turned support for our troops into a fetish. The implication was that anyone who opposed the Iraq War was a traitor. What does that make Donald Trump? Just a sucker and a loser or a traitor?

I have never heard anyone say such terrible things about our veterans before; even those who opposed a particular war. It would have never occurred to me or anyone I know to call veterans of the Iraq War losers and suckers. The only one I’ve heard speak in those terms was a fictional character, Sonny Corleone in The Godfather:

In 2020, the only saps are those who insist on believing everything the Gangster-in-Chief says. I no longer care what the shrinking cadre of Trump cultists think. They’re suckers and losers.

Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist who only cares about himself and is incapable of understanding concepts such as “duty, honor, and country.” His motto is a selfish one: “What’s in it for me?” He’s the loser, not the uncle I never knew.

6 thoughts on “My Uncle Was A ‘Loser’

  1. John Kelly could end this all right now by speaking up publicly. If a president of the United States ever said something like that to me at the gravesite of my son or daughter, I wouldn’t just speak up, I’d throttle the sonofabitch.

  2. Thank you for writing this and sharing your family’s story. I truly try not to hate people, I believe it’s damaging to the person holding that feeling. But I hate Trump beyond measure or description. And that this is what he thinks of our troops, which once included my daughter, who was fortunate to come home safely, just ignites my rage. I cannot and never will understand his adorers.

  3. My son leaves for boot camp within two weeks. I come from a military family; almost all the men in my family, in every generation, have served. I couldn’t stand trump before; I despise him all the more now.

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