Joshua Macias, Chairman of the Veterans for Trump Coalition, claims that through Benghazi, Hillary lost the trust of veterans.
Born in California in 1978, Joshua Macias comes from a family whose collective military service spans five generations. His grandfather served in WWII and fought against the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. His great cousin was an admiral who fought valiantly on D-Day with the Allied Forces. “It’s a rite of passage for our family to serve in the military. All of my family has served.“ Joshua told me, sipping black tea in the Presidential lounge of the Yale Club in New York City. In the Navy, Macias served as a small-boat engineer and was involved in operations against Iran, the Argos, and fought against narco-terrorism in South America. He insists that he came to this election not as a politician, but as a citizen.
Accordingly, he organized the strongest coalition of veterans in support of a presidential candidate (now President-elect) since indeed WWII. Macias was arguably first veteran who actively joined Trump on the campaign trail. His mission? To work on the ground and make sure that the voices of veterans were heard, held front and center, throughout this election. Participating in The Pavlovic Today’s unique forum, The Conversation, Macias insists that American society needs a huge paradigm shift to understand the veteran community and return to them their voice
What made you join Trump’s campaign?
When Donald Trump said “we’re going to take care of the veterans,” no one else did. I was in Virginia when I heard his announcement. The moment he walked down and said these are the issues. And he laid them out there, I was sold. Once I was sold, I’m an ‘all-in kind of guy’, there was no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I immediately contacted the campaign in Virginia and asked if they needed help, and they did. There were not a lot of veterans at that time. We are talking August of last year. Early on. Trump was just forming his team.
Were you familiar with the problems of veterans before the election?
At a micro-level to a macro-level. I saw how the military was changing, and I didn’t like it. Any aspect of it. The fact that we were downsizing, under Clinton’s army. When I pulled into Yemen when I was 19, they gave me a 9mm. They said, ‘Joshua you’re a marksman shot, I need you to protect this ship.’ And I was doing rounds, and they said if anyone touches this ship or tries to board, you have the right to fire. When we pulled into Yemen, our job was to protect. Two years later, the USS Cole gets bombed, we set a precedent by going in there.
al-Qaeda bombing, is that what you mean?
Yes, at the time, we were searching for Al-Qaeda, we were also enforcing… seeing that in Yemen, seeing Saddam Hussein… the yelling, the screaming at us as we pulled in. We were scared for our safety, and rightfully so. My friend, the engineer died. It could’ve just as easily been me.
Did you see any seed of terrorist ideology that had been planted at the time but would manifest later on as a larger terrorist threat?
Of course, we were there for that very reason. We’d just gotten out of Iraq with Saddam Hussein, we didn’t have a huge presence in the Persian Gulf at the time. Really, in my time there, we were the only ship that was bouncing between Bahrain and Iranian borders and was enforcing barters.
Would you say that at the time, Bill Clinton had a good relationship with the military?
The father of my friend in the navy, he committed suicide, and no small part because of that tenure of time. He was told to strip off his uniform and put on a business suit when he was within the room of President Clinton. That is the most demoralizing thing to do to a man of honor.
He was asked to put on a suit in a meeting with Bill Clinton at the White House or when Clinton was visiting the base?
Anywhere. Anywhere when he was to be face-to-face with President Clinton, he was told to put on a suit. The president didn’t want anyone with any form of ranking to be in the same room with him. He only wanted them to be in a suit. I’m just stating that from a very high level while I was serving. While I was serving, we all saw that disrespect, that lack of honor and support of the military, of who we are. There’s a huge disconnect of understanding of what makes us who we are. That’s when I saw our traditions start to get ripped away. And I felt that happening while I was out at sea. I was in full service, a slave to man in this endeavor. I had no say-so, I’d raised my hand taken my oath. Keep my ship together, protect my friends, ensure that we’re on commission, that we’re focused on the mission. But I also saw the problems.
I hear many veterans talking about problems with the transition, but what is the bottom line?
When you are on active duty, your basic needs are still met. But when you get out, these are no longer provided for, and when you no longer have a job, you are forced into a predicament that you don’t want. You don’t have a mission anymore, and there are many veterans that are below the poverty line right now, which is unacceptable. We have hundreds of thousands that are dealing with undiagnosed, unknown illnesses. PTSD is on the psychological spectrum. I myself, I have Persian Gulf War Syndrome, both due to anthrax, and all of the ingestion of the chemical agents that I was exposed to on the Persian Gulf. I have the arthritic condition of a 70-year-old, and I’m only 38. You can’t see that, it’s internal, but I deal with pain every day. Even now I’m in intense pain, to the 6th/7th level.
There are no many stories of PTSD and suicide of veterans, why do you think that’s the case?
It’s hard for them to talk about, it really is.
Why? Because of the stigma?
Why? Our veteran voice has been taken from us.
How and by who?
Since we’ve seen a Bill Clinton time, when you’ve been told to strip off your uniform. That goes back decades. It’s a stigma that was pushed into the system.
Why don’t veterans come forward and talk about this?
Because we’re not ones to cry about it. We’re not complainers. We’re courageous. We’re warriors. We’re strong. We have high pain tolerances. We’ll do whatever it takes for the mission to succeed. And that’s how we’re wired. So it’s not something we talk among themselves, we’ll deal with it internally then try and find solutions. The VA itself can only handle 6-8% of the issues that we’re dealing with today. The VA itself is not the answer. Society needs a huge paradigm shift to understand that the veteran community is the greatest among us. To raise up and give them their voice, and to listen.
How can we, the media, give them a voice?
These kinds of articles are great, but we’re working very hard to give back the veterans’ voices so they are a beacon of light and hope in our community. We deal with the crisis of veteran's suicide issue we’re losing 30 more a day. They are Persian Gulf War veterans and Afghan War veterans. They’re the millennial generation. Through our series of wars in Iraq and Iran and counterterrorism, let’s just say the war on terror, we’re losing 7,000 a year. Casualties, over the war, 7,000. We’re losing 10,000 a year on self-inflicted wounds, stateside. Although we can prevent death on the battlefield we have 260,000 veterans with PTSD. 600,000 veterans with traumatic brain injury. Canada has already proven that the suicide-connection is tied to the same thing that we’re seeing in NFL players, where through numerous contusions and head injuries, it flips a switch in their brain and they end up committing suicide. Because of all that damage to their brain. America has yet to put those things together. We’re not there yet.
When does exactly a transition crisis for a veteran take place?
The standard veteran takes 5-10 years to deinstitutionalize and to transition out of the military. If beforehand, when they’re still institutionalized, they’re not able to get a foothold on a good job, it will eat them up inside. Then you add on the fact that they have physical trauma, accidents, whatever has happened to them – from amputations to internal injuries, you name it. The pains they deal with on a daily basis. Then you add on the fiscal issues that they’re dealing with. Veterans come out of the military with just the clothes on their back, being told that they’re going to get a pension, and then it takes 6 months to a year before they receive an income. Also, homelessness is a big problem with the veterans and a big mission of mine. I started nonprofits in Virginia, and because of our counsel and our non-profit, Virginia became the only state to be functional 0 for homelessness. That was a big thing that I was a part of.
How does a veteran become homeless?
Let’s just talk about the Afghan war veteran. The veteran comes back, and this is without a major amputation or anything, let’s just talk about the normal gill. He’s been in for 10 or 12 years, now there’s a downside. He’s told, you cannot reenlist. He says, ‘Oh well, I’m coming up on my term.’ And they say, ‘Well, go get your separation.’ And he’s told they’re going to get a separation and get a cheque for their disability. This happens to them within 6 months of the end of their obligated service. They’re given a book, a two-day course, and told, ‘This is how you’re going to transition out.’ Now mind you, they’ve served for over a decade, maybe less. It could be 2 years; it could be 10 years. It could be up to 20 years. But they’re not prepared for a transition. There’s no real ‘tabs’ program that prepares them for what they’re about to receive and get into. They get out. They have not saved money, because fiscally, they’re not trained in this very well. They’re now saying, ‘I don’t want to go home.’ Because home is now different. They’re trying to homestead or find a place where they can be stable. They may have an apartment, they may have a place already, but they don’t have an income. They’re told they’re going to start receiving their benefits, but that’s now delayed or caught in a system that takes quite a while. For me it was a few months. For an average Afghan veteran it can be up to 6 months; it can be way longer if there’s an issue with their disability rating when they come out. So they don’t have income, they’re maybe alone, or maybe they have family or are married, but still, income is a big issue. If they don’t have a place, and now they don’t have income, now they walk out of living on the ship, living in the barracks, and literally day one, they’re homeless. So they call up a buddy and say, ‘Hey I have nowhere to go I just got separated. I wasn’t expecting this. Can I crash at your place?’
The government doesn’t provide any form of temporary transitional housing?
You ask a very good question: why is there not good transition housing for veterans? IN WWII and Vietnam, they provided housing for the transitional veteran, they gave them 6 months of free housing in these communities. And then training, vocational training
Do the veterans have the tools to transition from the army?
It’s very difficult for vets. They don’t know how to transition; they aren’t given the tools. They aren’t told, ‘This is how you transition, this is how you work with real estate. This is how you work with contracts, this is how you work with insurance. This is how you get your job, this is how you take care of your bills.’ They have no home. They have their buddies, they are couch-surfing, they’re trying to get their affairs in order. And that alone is a huge undertaking. Now, that’s the average veteran who still hasn’t dealt with their health. Mind you, they could be hurting this whole time, they could be wondering why they’re in so much pain every time they wake up in the morning, not understanding. Or, they know why, and they’re trying to deal with a VA that’s bogged down and horrific and another institution that they just don’t want to deal with. Because why would I want to go back to the institution that’s already caused so much pain in my life? That’s not taking care of me number one, that I feel disregarded in, that I feel disenfranchised or not protected around. Who wants to go back to that? You don’t. You seek support elsewhere and you start working within our own communities to do that, and that’s what we’ve done. That’s what we’ve been forced to do. But then there’s not a lot of monetary support for that, we’re having to do it amongst ourselves.
Why did you become the chair of the “Veterans for Trump” coalition?
Coalitions were still trying to be figured out when I was coming in, we were still way ahead of the curve. Most of the time it wasn’t until after the primaries that all of this starts fleshing out, and that’s when true coalitions get built. I knew how important it was to have veterans issues at the forefront of the debate. When I looked at the whole field, I knew that Donald Trump stood as the best candidate for us because of not only his history with our community, having helped marines, all the stories of who he is and how he has respect for our community, and I looked at the field of people up there, and I knew ‘how you voted, what you could’ve done and what you didn’t do’, then I look at the other side and I see Benghazi and all these other issues.
What do you think of Benghazi?
What do I think of Benghazi? It was horrific. I’m grateful for the 6 fighting veterans who heard the bell and stood up, as I would have or any number of us would have, when they saw the issue. And I pray that I would have had the same courage that those men had. I’ve met these men – they’re in the same community that I served alongside as a small-boat operator. Again, it’s a brotherhood. We connected very intimately, you get this level of support and understanding of who they are. I think Benghazi was atrocious, horrific, a dark time in our world of surveillance and for our people. It defined those who were in power at the time, like Hilary Clinton, as Secretary of State, where she had the opportunity to show what it would be like to be Commander-in-chief and to take action, and she didn’t. And even though Obama, which I actually gained respect for him because he said: “‘take action necessary to save our Americans’, he gave the order and Hillary deliberated and debated for two hours, and it was all over by the time that she was even going to think about doing something. And that hesitation, that deliberation, over what uniform to wear, what flag to show, just shows Hillary’s total disregard and disconnect.
Why do you think Hillary Clinton lost the election?
There’s many reasons why, but Benghazi lack of action showed Hillary’s true colours. And in a moment of crisis we say the true character is revealed, it’s through the crucible that you see who people truly are. It’s through refinement by fire, biblically, that you can see if it’s pure gold or not. All of the impurities are burnt out, and we saw how impure that metal is, and what it’s really forged out of. And we saw that it’s not built for nobility. We need to see the presidency as a position of nobility, of honor to be a part of.
You’ve been openly Republican throughout the election cycle; could openly talk about who you support during the campaign?
There was a super negative connotation. The current regime tried to make it out that who I am and represent as a freedom-loving America, Persian Gulf War, disabled, service-connected veteran, tried to make it as if I was the next terrorist to America. Coming from that lens…of being a Trump supporter and seen as a racist. A Racist? I am of Spanish descent. I speak my first language of Spanish, and you’re going to tell me I’m racist? Really? I have served with every race, creed, color, religion, and all I ever saw was the navy blue. And to tell me that? I was appalled that anyone would ever say that about me or my community.
Have you interacted with the President-Elect?
We’ve had interaction. My ambassadors, mind you the flag officers in those top 200 that signed on and gave their input, their op-ed, the generals, admirals…. many times we’ve had conversations with Trump, and they had too. I’ve met him multiple times, we’ve talked.
What those conversations were about?
Every time I encourage him that the veterans have his support, and he says. ‘You’re going to be so happy, Josh, you’re going to be so happy about what we’re going to do.’
Would you say Donald Trump is a leader who listens?
Most definitely. He trusts his advisors, and those who have supported him and been a part of his movement, most definitely. I’ve seen it. Trump had such respect for us, and every time we met him, he was always that way. And he had enough intellectual humility to take our advice and implement it. And he did. I brought advice, consulting, to the campaign, and it’s been implemented. I asked why don’t we start a veteran fundraising, let’s do a fundraising round. There was all the people that said that’s a good idea. I was blown away at how fast and how big it got. We couldn’t have expected that.
On a larger scale, administration wise, what can be done for the veterans?
We did make a large scale change, which is Donald Trump getting elected. So that’s number one. This is just our victory day, this day one of the campaign on the war against all these issues that we have to deal with. We have just begun. There’s such a stigma against veteran community but we’re not the enemy. We’re your shield and the sword. We’re the armor. You want the armor. You want us, when the going gets tough. You have the missiles flying in, when you have the attacks occurring, you want us there. Just as we want the boys in blue to be there on the streets when I’m walking down at midnight in the dark alleys trying to go home, I want to know that they’re there protecting us. I don’t have to rely on myself for my second amendment rights and my combat training to get me out of a situation. Nor do I want to think, every time I walk down the street in a big crowded area, that I have to have a heightened sense of awareness for myself and the crowd, to protect against an intrusion or an attack.
How does the veteran community perceive Mike Pence?
There’s a deep “bromance” within the military community for Mike Pence. When Trump picked Mike Pence for VP, it just solidified in our minds, his decision-making process being on point and trust of his vision of how things needed to happen. He didn’t even see that coming out of the gate. I’m part of the combat of veteran’s motorcycle association as well, and a lot of our people came from that too. Pence is also a rider. That was such a connection to us. His brother, a marine, served. When I had the veterans round-table event in Wisconsin, to get that one-on-one time with Mike Pence, to speak with his wife, to talk about their family we understood what he was about. He joined civil service, because he had such a deep need to take care of his state, and his community and people. Being so close to the military community was always something Mike Pence had been passionate about. And seeing that decision-making process that Donald Trump has made, it just solidified the foundation that was already poured for us. We knew Trump was ready to be our president.
We hear a lot of criticism that media was biased during the election, what is your view?
There was definitely a bias. That’s why statistically you can read, that most people only believe 25% of what the media says. They think the other 75% is just garbage and is made up. During, after, and now. People want the truth. They don’t want the propaganda. They don’t want the Marxist agenda, they don’t want the communist agenda, the New World Order shoved down their throats, they don’t want polls to try and influence society. They want the polls to be real. They want the truth. People are starving for the truth, they want true journalism, real investigative journalism…. it’s about the content, the nature of the story, what you’re trying to bring forth. It’s about being objective. When I look at data I have to be objective, I’d much rather know where I am because I already know where I want to be, and if you don’t know where you are you have no true heading as to where you want to go. There’s a manipulation of where you’re at so they can push you to where they want you to be. And that’s inherent in nature, that’s wrong, it doesn’t work that way. Let the people decide, which way to go. Why are we withholding truth, truth isn’t subjective, it’s truth, by definition? It is real. It’s hard, it’s tangible. So yes we have to seek the truth, find it. If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, it’s a duck. I’m not calling it a fish.
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