Donald Trump Never Served in the Military Prior to Being Elected President

Although many have served in the military, Donald Trump avoided serving in Vietnam thanks to a "diagnosis" of bone spurs.


May 28 2024, Published 9:50 a.m. ET

Donald Trump greeting troops in front of a flag and a helicopter.
Source: Getty Images

As he seeks the presidency for the second time, Donald Trump has remained a fixture in U.S. politics. Even though most Americans' opinions of the former president solidified at this point, some things about him that can be easy to forget.

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Among those facts is whether the former president has any history of military service. Here's what we know about whether Donald Trump ever served in the military before being elected to the presidency.

Donald Trump with his hands on the shoulder of troops.
Source: Getty Images
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Does Donald Trump have any history of military service?

Trump has never served in the military. He was the first president in U.S. history to be elected to the Oval Office without serving either in the military or government beforehand. And, while Trump's image is in part focused on making the U.S. seem strong, he has a fraught history around servicemen and the military more generally.

That history started back during the Vietnam War when he received a diagnosis of bone spurs just in time to avoid the draft.

Questions lingered around that diagnosis for years. The New York Times revealed in 2018 that the podiatrist who made the diagnosis rented his office from Trump's father, Fred Trump, and the suggestion was that he had made the diagnosis as a favor to Trump's father.

Dr. Larry Braunstein, who made the diagnosis, died in 2007, but his daughters said that he described the incident as a favor.

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“What he got was access to Fred Trump,” Elysa Braunstein, one of Larry's daughters, said. “If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.”

The implication of this story, then, is that Trump and his family went out of their way to make sure that he didn't serve in the military.

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Donald Trump has a record of saying disparaging things about the troops.

In addition to apparent draft dodging, there's also a well-reported history of Trump saying judgmental and disparaging things about American troops. During the campaign for the 2016 election, Trump went after John McCain, who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Trump said that he liked soldiers who weren't captured.

While in office, he reportedly made other remarks about U.S. service members who had died for the country.

During a visit to a cemetery in France in 2018, Trump reportedly questioned why he should be made to honor dead U.S. troops.

“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers," he reportedly said.

Trump also suggested that the men were "suckers" for getting killed, according to reporting in The Atlantic.

These private comments stand in stark contrast to Trump's public persona as a man who loves both America and those who serve the country. Given his own history of avoiding such service himself, though, it seems clear that Trump's real feelings about those who sign up to risk their lives for their country are a little more complicated than they might first appear to be.

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