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Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman August 28, 2020

Melania Trump is not the first FLOTUS to visit troops in a combat zone in 50 years

If Your Time is short

  • This is false. At least two former first ladies — Michelle Obama and Laura Bush —  have visited U.S. troops in designated combat zones since first lady Pat Nixon went to South Vietnam in 1969.

  • Michelle Obama visited troops in 2015 in Qatar, and Laura Bush made trips to Afghanistan in 2005 and 2008.

A Facebook post claims that Melania Trump is the first president’s wife to visit troops in a combat zone since 1969.

That’s not true. At least two former first ladies have traveled to greet U.S. troops in designated combat zones since then.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

There is no record of any first lady traveling to an area under an active attack.

The IRS defines "combat zone" as a general term that "includes all of the following hostile areas where military may serve: actual combat areas, direct combat support areas, and qualified hazardous duty areas. With respect to deadline extensions, the term ‘combat zone(s)’ includes contingency operations areas."

First lady Melania Trump traveled with President Donald Trump to Al Asad Airbase in Iraq in a surprise visit to troops on Dec. 26, 2018.

Before that, Michelle Obama made a 2015 visit to troops at the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, a combat zone since 1991.

Laura Bush visited Afghanistan in 2005 and 2008 and made stops to meet with troops. The country has been a combat zone since the U.S. invaded in 2001.

Pat Nixon accompanied President Richard Nixon to visit troops in South Vietnam in 1969, the Associated Press reported.

Hillary Clinton visited Bosnia as first lady in 1996, the trip implicated in her Pants on Fire claim that her plane landed under "sniper fire." But it was considered a "hostile area," and not a combat zone, the AP reported.

The Facebook claim about the historical significance of Melania Trump’s trip is False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Aug. 27, 2020 

IRS, Combat Zones Approved for Tax Benefits, Last updated Feb. 18, 2020

Military Times, President Trump, first lady make surprise Iraq visit, Dec. 26, 2018

Defense.gov, First Lady Visits, Praises Troops at Al Udeid Air Base, Nov. 3, 2015

Associated Press, Melania Trump not first FLOTUS to visit combat zone since 1969, May 30, 2019

BushCenter.org, The 15th Anniversary of Mrs. Laura Bush's Historic Trip to Afghanistan, May 7, 2020

Defense.gov archive, First Lady Visits Troops in Afghanistan, June 9, 2008

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Melania Trump is not the first FLOTUS to visit troops in a combat zone in 50 years

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