Flashback: Trump Saved NY Veterans Day Parade Marking 50th Anniversary of End of WWII

A meme was started by Trump antagonists in certain conservative circles that Donald Trump does next to nothing to help veterans. It turns out Trump has been generous with veterans over the past decades–all it takes is a little more research than those with an ax to grind seem willing to do.

Trump Vietnam Memorial Plaza 2008 Honoree
Donald Trump with wife Melania and sons Eric and Donald, Jr. Trump holds the Phelps Award as 2008 Honoree of the Year by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza.

UPI reported in 1995 how Trump was credited with ‘saving’ the New York Veterans Day Parade. The parade that year was marking the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II.

Police estimated 500,000 people attended the largest military parade ever held in New York. Organizers, who placed the turnout at closer to a million, said the parade would not have been a success if it hadn’t been for real estate developer Donald Trump, who contributed $200,000 and raised another $300,000.

“Donald Trump saved the parade,” said parade director Tom Fox, himself a Vietnam veteran. “We had asked for donations from 200 corporations, and none of them came through,” he said.

“This donation is the single most important thing I’ve ever done,” said a beaming Trump. “This is more important than all of my buildings and my casinos. This is my way of saying thank you to all the men an women in the armed services who have made it possible for me to become a success. Without them freedom and liberty would be gone.”

From the New York Times in 1995, another report that mentions how Trump came to the aid of the parade when the organizers had less than two dollars for the parade.

Nonetheless, from the beginning, this year’s organizers have skated on thin financial ice, government approvals have been slow and lining up things like Sherman tanks and marching bands has been difficult. “There has been a constant awareness everything could fall apart at any time,” Mr. Fox said.

Organizers received no contributions from the 200 corporations they asked, among them military contractors to whom they presented documentation of profits made on weapons used in World War II.

“Zippo, dada, zilch,” Mr. Fox said. “Nothing from Northrup, United Technologies, none of them. To me, it’s a sin.”

By mid-August, organizers had a bank account of exactly $1.21. A request to airlines to donate blankets for aging veterans was turned down because logos might not be visible on television. Then Donald Trump, a nonveteran, agreed to throw in $200,000 as well as raise money from his friends, in exchange for being named grand marshal.

Since then, money has come in, though not enough to meet the original budget, which was reduced from $2.9 million to $2.4 million. Fireworks were just one of many cuts.

A 1995 video report archived by Getty Images features Trump speaking about the parade.

“The fact is you have a group of people that has been so tremendous for this country and they’ve been forgotten. And I think that tomorrow they’re going to be remembered.”

This was not Trump’s first time supporting the New York Veterans Day Parade. In 1987 Trump gave $1 million to help the parade when it was in transition, according to a history of the parade reported by Business Insider in 2013.

Then, in 1987, The American Legion decided to stop producing New York’s Veterans Day parade, in part, (Vince) McGowan said, because of the controversy surrounding gay veterans who wanted to participate.

And so the UWVC took the helm. McGowan described those days as “25 guys with a snare drum marching down 5th Avenue.”

But soon the UWVC, and the New York Veterans Day parade began to grow, in part because of a $1 million matching donation from Donald Trump, and the parade began to grow.

Trump tweeted the article last summer.

This wasn’t the only veterans project Trump was involved with in New York. In the 1980s, Trump gave $1 million to help fund the New York City Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza located in Lower Manhattan, reported the New York Times in 1985.

The centerpiece of the commission’s effort is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a glass-block wall, 70 feet long and 16 feet high, which is etched with excerpts from 83 letters – including Sergeant Calamia’s – that were written by or to the soldiers who served in America’s most unpopular war.

”It’s not just brick and mortar,” said Donald Trump, the real-estate executive who donated $1 million of the $2.5 million raised by the commission, which is also charged with financing programs for unemployed local veterans. ”It’s very much a living monument.”

”I was a very strong opponent of the Vietnam War,” he said, ”but I also recognized that the people who went to fight were great Americans. I always thought they got a bad shake in life and never got their just recognition.”

Trump spoke last month about his ‘guilt’ over not serving and how it motivated his efforts, reported ABC Radio.

Trump turned reflective as he mentioned the Vietnam War. “I love the country. I’ve seen what it can do,” he said. “I didn’t serve. I haven’t served. And frankly I had deferments because of college, like a lot of people did…I always felt a little bit guilty.” He also cited a high draft number and “a foot thing” for not being drafted.

That guilt continued to gnaw at him, he said, prompting him to donate money to build the Vietnam Veterans Plaza in New York, “as a way of making up,” and eventually to run for president. Trump contributed $1 million in matching funds to build the memorial in 1983.

Trump was honored in 2008 for his role in the helping the memorial come into being.

Donald J. Trump – Chairman & President, The Trump Organization
In 1982 Donald J. Trump was named as Co-Chairman of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, established by Mayor Edward I. Koch. Their mission was to raise the necessary funds in order to build a memorial in honor of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War, and to create a counseling and employment program for veterans. The commission raised in excess of three million dollars. It was Donald Trump’s challenge to the City of New York, and his personal contribution of one million dollars, that was instrumental in the completion of this project.

Last summer Vince McGowan spoke up for Trump about the numerous ways he has helped veterans when Trump was under attack for his remarks about John McCain, ABC News reported.

With all the fire coming at Donald Trump since his comments this weekend against Sen. John McCain – one of the leaders of New York’s Vietnam Veterans Plaza tells ABC News Trump “has not been a bad guy to us.”

Vincent McGowan, who has been with the organization since its inception in 1983 and currently sits on its board, says that if it wasn’t for Trump, the project in lower Manhattan would have never happened.

McGowan says the property downtown was gifted to the veterans by the Koch administration but they had no money. Trump committed $1M in a matching fund and they “couldn’t have built it without him.”

…McGowan confirmed his organization has turned to Trump several times over the years. In 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII, the group asked for the Donald’s support for their parade. Trump gave the group $175,000 and allowed organizers to use his helicopter to get around the different parts of the city quickly. “He’s like a guy from the corner who made out well,” says McGowan who added the organization honored Trump in 2005 as their Friend of the Year.

McGowan recalled a particular experience a few years back, a staff sergeant had just retired after 10 years of service, wanted to see New York but was down on his luck. McGowan called Trump who gave the veteran a tour of Trump Tower, took him for lunch and then handed him a check for $10,000 to jump start his education.

“When we need help, really at the bottom of the barrel, I don’t know where we would be without him,” said McGowan who still calls Trump whenever he needs him and looks forward to his annual Christmas card from the Donald. McGowan declined to say whether he was inclined to vote for Trump or whether he was supporting someone else at this time.

Thursday night Trump held a rally for veterans in Des Moines, Iowa that raised over $6 million, including $1 million from Trump, that will be given to 22 veterans groups across the country.

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