SAN ANTONIO – Just a few hours into the ground invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva stepped on a land mine, giving him the dubious honor of being one of the first U.S. service members injured in the Iraq War.
The explosion broke his left leg and damaged his right leg so badly it had to be amputated. As a result, Alva received a medal to which no service member ever aspires - the Purple Heart . But Avila received it in the service of a country for which he was willing to get it.
“We do it to protect this land. We do it to make sure that others are protected as well,” Alva said of himself and other veterans. “We’re not losers. We’re not suckers. We’re patriots.”
Alva’s declaration is in response to reports of disparaging comments President Donald Trump allegedly made about U.S. service members. Relying on anonymous sources, the Atlantic reported on Sep. 3 that Trump had referred to U.S. service members who died in World War I as “losers” and “suckers.”
The article includes additional allegations, such as that Trump asked his staff not to include wounded veterans for a parade, and that he called both former President George H.W. Bush, who was shot down as a Navy pilot in World War II, and Sen, John McCain, who was a P.O.W. in Vietnam, “losers.”
The Associated Press reported it has independently confirmed many of the reported comments from the Atlantic’s article. Trump has called it a “fake story.”
For his part, Alva believes the president made the comments “because it’s not surprising anymore,” and said they hurt.
“It’s like taking something from what all of us had fought for and then just throwing it away. I mean, these are very hurtful, disrespectful comments,” Alva said.
Alva notes, though, that not all veterans will feel the same as him, and there will be those who stand by the president.
“But you have to really wonder what kind of loyalty is that? To your fellow veterans or to someone who is accused - accused again, accused - of calling someone ‘loser’ or ‘sucker,’” Alva said.
Alva said he would want Trump to apologize and own up to the reported comments.
“Hypothetically, if he gets another four years, then maybe he can make some reparations to this,” Alva said.