A little over a week ago, on a rainy early Thursday afternoon, a small group of men and women gathered in the Veterans Garden of Mashpee Community Park to mark the arrival and installation of 25 memorial stones, each one commemorating one of the 25 men and women soldiers from Mashpee who had given their life for their country.
It was a brief but somber occasion.
Earl Mills Sr., a Korean War veteran and a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, pointed with his cane to the stone commemorating his older brother, Ferdinand Mills.
Ferdinand Mills, a staff sergeant in the US Army Air Force, died in Italy on May 8, 1945, the last day of World War II in Europe.
Francis Fermino, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars and also a member of the Wampanoag tribe, noted the stone for his cousin, Vernon M. Haynes.
Vernon Haynes, a private first class in the US Marine Corps, was killed May 15, 1945, in the Battle of Okinawa.
Mr. Fermino called the installation of the stones memorializing the fallen veterans “the greatest thing going.”
“They stepped up for it,” he said of Mashpee’s veterans.
The town put a lot of time and effort into the memorial stones.
Richard P. DeSorgher, a member of the Mashpee Historical Commission, said later that the project had required extensive historical research over the past two years.
In that research, the commission was assisted by Rita Lopez of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and tribal records, the Massachusetts Veterans Department and the Cape Cod Veteran Service Office.
Mr. DeSorgher said research revealed that 25 men and women from Mashpee had given the ultimate sacrifice. He ticked down the list: 14 from the Revolutionary War, two from the Civil War, four from World War II, two from Iraq and three from Afghanistan.
The reworking of the Veterans Garden, which includes landscaping, connecting walkways and lighting, is costing the town $317,000. The town is using Community Preservation Act funds approved by Town Meeting, assisted by a grant from the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office.
But if Town Meeting, the historical commission and the veterans had waited just a few hours later, they would have learned that they needn’t have bothered.
At 7:31 PM, the Atlantic released its story that President Trump had disparaged those who had fallen in service of their country as “suckers” and “losers.”
The president reportedly made his comments on a trip to Paris in 2018.
He is said to have questioned the need to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, saying it was filled with “losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, he is said to have called the 1,800 US Marines who died at Belleau Wood “suckers” for getting killed.
In the past, when President Trump has said something outrageous, the White House generally will double down rather than retreat and apologize.
On this one, though, no doubling down. The White House raced in the other direction. They said the story, which quoted anonymous sources, was inaccurate.
But they had a few problems.
1. Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor of the Atlantic, who is known as one of the best foreign policy journalists around, wrote the article. Mr. Goldberg has long-standing contacts with officials in the intelligence community and the Pentagon.
2. Other news organizations, including the president’s friends at Fox News, began corroborating the story.
3. Donald Trump has been in this neighborhood for years.
Did he say those things? Probably. They would explain his MIA status at Aisne-Marne and at Belleau Wood, noted at the time.
In general, however, Donald Trump has had at best a chilly relationship with the American military.
Recall his continuing tweeted disdain for the late US Senator John McCain, who was shot down over Vietnam and endured five years in the Hanoi Hilton.
“I like people who weren’t captured,” Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, said in 2015. “He let us down.”
This from a man who successfully and continuously evaded the Vietnam draft and who called the New York dating wars of the 1990s his “personal Vietnam.”
Or his putdown of the Gold Star parents Khzir and Ghazala Khan, who lost their son in Iraq in 2004.
After Mr. Khan, speaking at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, had held up a pocket Constitution and asked if President Trump had ever read it, the president tweeted, “While I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr. Khan, who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things.”
Mr. Trump also repeatedly questioned why Mrs. Khan stood by silently during her husband’s address to the Democratic convention.
Mrs. Khan subsequently said she was filled with grief.
As president, Donald Trump has perpetrated a series of outrages. First he violated mores; then he assaulted the truth; then he busted through the Constitution at least a couple of times.
A kind of macabre game has developed among Americans over the past three-and-a-half years of the Trump presidency: the “This is it. This is the last straw. There’s no way he’ll get out of this” game.
And, of course, he always has.
But, just judging by the White House reaction to the Atlantic article, the president knows this one is trouble, just like Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” and Mitt Romney’s “49 percent.”
If he indeed said what he reportedly said, he truly has reached a new bottom. What he said wasn’t illegal or unconstitutional; he was within his rights to say it.
Yet there is something so low, so grievously shocking about calling US troops who fell in the line of duty “losers” and “suckers” that it seems to have tapped into something even deeper in the American gut than the Constitution.
American troops were fighting and dying for their nation at Bunker Hill and at Lexington and Concord even before the Constitution was drawn up, even before the United States declared itself an independent nation.
The president, who has yet to specifically comment on Mashpee’s fallen, could make an argument that at least some of them truly fall into the “sucker” category: the Mashpee Wampanoag who fell in the Revolutionary War.
They sided with the patriots when many white colonists did not. Likely they were hoping the ideals espoused by the new nation’s leaders would apply to them, too, when the war was won.
It didn’t happen. If American soldier and Mashpee tribal member Joseph Pocknett, who fell in 1777, came back to life 25 years later and returned home, he would have found that the Wampanoags had not been given the full share of rights and democracy given to white Americans.
But Joseph Pocknett and his fellow Wampanoags fought in the American army in good faith, hopeful that their efforts would yield a better country.
Neither they nor the 1.4 million other service members who have died in America’s wars should be considered “suckers.” They should be considered heroes.