Veterans are unloading on Roy Moore's comments about military service

  • Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, a Vietnam War veteran, made a controversial remark about transgender servicemembers.
  • Veterans took issue with his statement and began sharing images of themselves in uniform with a message for Moore. Some of them expressed their support for his rival, Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones.


Politicians who are veterans of the US armed forces have long touted their military records, or their connections to the military during campaigns for public office. Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is no exception.

But Moore received some criticism on Monday when he applied an allegory that combined military procedure with a politically divisive topic related to some troops currently serving in the armed forces.

"I know we do not need transgender in our military," Moore said during a campaign rally in Alabama, according to the Associated Press. "If I'm in a foxhole, I don't want to know whether this guy next to me is wondering if he's a woman or a man."

The polarizing discussion over whether transgender people should be allowed to openly enlist in the US military has been a point of contention for some conservatives since President Donald Trump proposed a policy change on the matter in July. Moore, a West Point graduate and Vietnam War veteran, has vehemently opposed transgender rights during his campaign.

But the term "foxhole" is not only interpreted as a literal defensive fighting position. It also invokes the intimate experience of bonds forged between servicemembers in the midst of battle — be it during the snow-covered Battle of the Bulge in World War II, or in the backdrop of picturesque views from Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Veterans and lawmakers came out to condemn Moore's remarks. Some of them pointed out the damaging sexual-harassment allegations leveled against Moore nearly five weeks before Election Day.

"I'd rather be in a foxhole with the brave trans men and women already serving overseas than in Congress with a pedophile," Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a former infantry Marine Corps officer and Iraq War veteran, tweeted.

"You won't be in a foxhole. I might be, though, and if I am, I don't want to have to worry my daughter might get molested by a US Senator while I'm gone," David Dixon, a US Army armor officer and Iraq War veteran, tweeted.

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Transgender members of the military
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Transgender members of the military

Nevada Army National Guard Sergeant Sam Hunt, an electrician with G Company, 2/238th General Support Aviation Battalion poses for a photo on the flight line at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Stead, Nevada, U.S. May 12, 2017. Hunt is the first openly transgender soldier of the Nevada National Guard. 

(Tech. Sgt. Emerson Marcus/Nevada Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs/Handout via REUTERS)

Former US Army Colonel and transgender Sheri Swokowski talks with reporters on July 27, 2017 in DeForest, Wisconsin, the day following US President Donald Trumps announcing of a ban on transgender military members.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Transgender former US Air Force member Vanessa Sheridan poses for a photo after talking with reporters in Chicago, Illinois on July 26, 2017. Trump announced that transgender people may not serve 'in any capacity' in the US military, citing the 'tremendous medical costs and disruption' their presence would cause.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Kristin Beck, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, speaks during a same-sex marriage rally to celebrate the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 25, 2014. The U.S. appeals court ruled on Wednesday that conservative Utah may not ban gay couples from marrying, a decision that capped a day of victories for same-sex nuptials and nudges the issue closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)

Alaina Kupec poses for a portrait at Logo's 'Trailblazer Honors' on June 23, 2016, in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

(Photo by Ungano & Agriodimas /Getty Images Portrait)

Transgender military pilot Shane Ortega arrives at IDENTITY: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders The List Portraits exhibition opening at the Annenberg Space for Photography on September 22, 2016 in Century City, California.

(Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

Former US Army Colonel and transgender Sheri Swokowski carries her uniform July 27, 2017 in DeForest, Wisconsin, the day following US President Donald Trumps announcing of a ban on transgender military members.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Former US Army Colonel and transgender Sheri Swokowski raises the American flag at her home on July 27, 2017 in DeForest, Wisconsin, the day following US President Donald Trumps announcing of a ban on transgender military members.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Transgender former US Air Force member Vanessa Sheridan poses for a photo after talking with reporters in Chicago, Illinois on July 26, 2017. Trump announced that transgender people may not serve 'in any capacity' in the US military, citing the 'tremendous medical costs and disruption' their presence would cause.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Transgender Retired US Army Colonel Sheri Swokowski prepares her uniform on July 1, 2016, at her home in DeForest, Wisconsin. Transgender personnel will no longer be barred from serving openly in the US military, the Pentagon announced on June 30, 2016. Lifting the ban on transgender service members is 'the right thing to do, and it's another step in ensuring that we continue to recruit and retain the most qualified people,' US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters.

(DEREK HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Hayden Brown with his girlfriend Mia Scott at home on July 28, 2017 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The transgender solider says he was told, days after President Trump banning transgender people from the military, that he must carry out the rest of his military career as a woman if he wants to keep his job. Hayden Brown says that just days after Donald Trump tweeted he was to ban all transgender people from the military, he received a call from his unit telling him he must revert back to female to continue his service. The 23-year-old from Pennsylvania has been in the armed forces for four and a half years, initially identifying as a woman.

(Ruaridh Connellan/Barcroft Ima/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Collect image of Hayden Brown with his military comrades at the presidential inauguration briefing at the Washington Redskins stadium on January 20, 2017 in Washington DC. A TRANSGENDER solider says he was told, days after President Trump banning transgender people from the military, that he must carry out the rest of his military career as a woman if he wants to keep his job. Hayden Brown says that just days after Donald Trump tweeted he was to ban all transgender people from the military, he received a call from his unit telling him he must revert back to female to continue his service. The 23-year-old from Pennsylvania has been in the armed forces for four and a half years, initially identifying as a woman.

(Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Hayden Brown with his girlfriend Mia Scott at home on July 28, 2017 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The transgender solider says he was told, days after President Trump banning transgender people from the military, that he must carry out the rest of his military career as a woman if he wants to keep his job. Hayden Brown says that just days after Donald Trump tweeted he was to ban all transgender people from the military, he received a call from his unit telling him he must revert back to female to continue his service. The 23-year-old from Pennsylvania has been in the armed forces for four and a half years, initially identifying as a woman.

(Ruaridh Connellan/Barcroft Ima/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Brock Stone, who is based at Fort Meade and has served in the Navy for 11 years, including a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, speaks to reports federal court with his team from the ACLU on November 9, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. Brock Stone is challenging President Trump's policy banning transgender people from serving in the military.

(Photo by Jason Andrew for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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Other veterans took issue with the exclusionary nature of Moore's statement, which may contrast with certain aspects of warfare and military readiness.

"This is not a thing anyone who ever served in a foxhole has worried about," Brandon Friedman, a former Housing and Urban Development official and US Army officer tweeted.

"In the Marine Corps, politics don't matter. Your color doesn't matter," Lee Busby, a Republican write-in candidate for Alabama's Senate race and a former colonel in the US Marine Corps, tweeted. "You fight for the Marine in that foxhole next to you because you love them and would do anything for them. Alabama is no different to me. I am willing to fight and claw for every single person in this state," Busby said.

Moore's own military service has since been called into question.

In Vietnam, the troops Moore commanded derisively nicknamed him "Captain America," according to a 2005 report from the Atlantic. Joshua Green wrote for the publication at the time that Moore "was so much disliked that he feared being killed by his own troops, and slept on a bed of sandbags so that he couldn't be fragged by a grenade rolled under his bed."

One of Moore's former professors, also a Vietnam War veteran, reportedly said that veterans told him Moore wanted to be saluted for his rank, on the ground in Vietnam, a tradition that, while normal by military standards, is discouraged while in an active war zone.

"When you go to Vietnam as an officer, you don't ask anybody to salute you, because the Viet Cong would shoot officers," Guy Martin, former adjunct professor at the University of Alabama School of law, told The New Yorker in October.

"You've heard this a million times in training," Martin continued. "There's nothing more telling about a person's capability and character and base intelligence. It's crazy."

While the US Defense Department previously concluded, after a year-long study, that allowing transgender servicemembers would have minimal impact on military readiness and cost, Moore has been unwavering in his opposition.

"To say that President Trump cannot prohibit transgenderism in the military is a clear example of judicial activism," Moore reportedly wrote in a statement in October, following a federal judge's decision to partially block Trump's transgender ban. "Even the United States Supreme Court has never declared transgenderism to be a right under the Constitution," Moore said.

At a campaign rally the same month, Moore said, "We don't need transgender bathrooms and we don't need transgender military and we don't need a weaker military ... We need to go back to what this country is about."

Moore's views struck a nerve with veterans

"Roy Moore — This is me in a real foxhole," a widely known Twitter user who goes by the alias "Red T Raccoon" tweeted with an accompanying photo. "I didn't care who was next to me as long as they had the American flag on their uniform. Bigotry has no place in the military and especially the Senate," the man, a former combat medic, who is now a veterans advocate, said.

Business Insider viewed the man's US Army service records and independently verified his identity following an interview Monday night. He has asked to remain anonymous.

"A bullet or [improvised explosive device] does the same damage to anyone," the man told Business Insider. "We all did what we had to do to survive and we all just wanted to go home. Sexuality or gender identity had nothing to do with those goals."

"I treated good men and women in the field that never made it home," he continued. "He has no right to question their service to our country."

Following his tweet, photos of uniformed service members with messages endorsing Jones began to circulate:

Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's special election in Alabama, the responses from veterans following Moore's comments shows that the military, despite being uniformed in appearance, is comprised of political views as unique as the men and women who serve.

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