Facts Matter: Melania is the sixth first lady to visit a war zone

A recent social media post asks, "Did you know that Melania is the first first lady to visit troops in a war zone?"

News fact-checking website says you should know instead that former first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt, Pat Nixon, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush all reportedly visited troops stationed in war zones and other potentially dangerous areas.

Melania Trump accompanied her husband, President Donald Trump, on a day-after-Christmas trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq for a surprise visit to troops, according to Snopes.

Laura Bush in 2005 visited troops in Afghanistan. As U.S. soldiers provided protection, she met with Afghan women freed from Taliban repression, Snopes said.

Hillary Clinton in 1996 journeyed to an area in Bosnia that officials called a potential combat zone even though active hostilities had ended shortly before her visit, Snopes said. A claim at the time that she was the first first lady to visit a combat zone since Roosevelt was debunked.

Barbara Bush joined her husband, President George H.W. Bush, on a trip to Saudi Arabia in 1990 during Operation Desert Shield. "For homesick American troops celebrating Thanksgiving just 80 miles from the Kuwaiti border, she was everybody's missing Mom whose smile sent spirits soaring," according to a Nov. 23, 1990, Washington Post article.

President Richard Nixon and wife Pat traveled in 1969 to an active combat zone in Vietnam, according to Snopes. The first lady spent most of her time with soldiers who were on break from the battle and those in the medic hospital units.

Eleanor Roosevelt made several trips to war zones in the 1940s during World War II, Snopes said. She stopped at 17 islands and saw nearly 400,000 military personnel while visiting hospitals and offering to write to the families of wounded soldiers.

Military gets annual pay raise

While visiting soldiers in Iraq last month, President Trump told the troops he had secured "one of the biggest" pay raises for the military and the first in more than 10 years.

This claim is not only inaccurate, according to, but it repeats an erroneous statement the commander in chief made in May.

"You haven't gotten one in more than 10 years - more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one," Trump told the troops, PolitiFact reported. "They said, 'You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent. We could make it 2 percent. We could make it 4 percent.' I said, 'No. Make it 10 percent.'"

In May, the president told military mothers and spouses during a White House event that he signed a bill to give service members a raise for the first time in 10 years, according to PolitiFact.

But members of the military have received pay increases every year since 1962, PolitiFact reported. (There was no raise in calendar year 1983 but that was because the pay cycle switched from October to January.) The increase that began on Jan. 1, 2019, was 2.6 percent, the largest in nine years.

Military pay increases, determined by a statutory formula, are equal to the Employment Cost Index, PolitiFact said. The president can request an alternate amount and Congress can pass legislation to change the automatic adjustment.

Trump requested a 2.6 percent increase for 2019, which was equal to the Employment Cost Index, PolitiFact said.

Report burglar killed by Christmas tree is false

A false story circulating on social media claims a man who broke into a home in a southwest Ohio town was killed after a Christmas tree fell on him, according to The Associated Press.

The report, credited to NBC NEWS 6, said a 27-year-old burglar entered a Huber Heights, Ohio, home to steal presents when the Christmas tree fell and pierced his neck, pinning him under the tree, AP said. There is no NBC NEWS 6 in that area.

A Dec. 16, 2018, post about the false story on the Huber Heights Police Department Facebook page said, "This is floating around social media, it did not occur."

A photo accompanying the fake article, showing police responding to an incident, was actually from a 2017 armed robbery report that ran in the Dayton Daily News, according to the post.

"There is no issue," the Facebook post said. "We are just heading off the many questions people will have for us before they start."

Loretta Lynn not dead

A recent article said country music singer Loretta Lynn died last month and left her estate to Trump's 2020 reelection campaign.

The story is false, according to Lynn, 86, is alive and nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Solo Performance.

The story, published by satire website America's Last Line of Defense, claimed Lynn left a note asking her fans to support "the wonderful Donald Trump," Snopes said. The story also wrongly said Lynn was 93 years old.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at

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