Fact Check: Is Melania Trump The First FLOTUS To Visit US Troops In A Combat Zone Since 1969?

Jonathan Fonti | Fact Check Reporter

A viral Instagram post claims Melania Trump is the first First Lady to visit U.S. troops in a combat zone since 1969.


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Verdict: False

At least two other first ladies, Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush, have visited troops in designated combat zones since 1969.

Fact Check:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines a combat zone as a “general term” that includes “actual combat areas, direct combat support areas, and qualified hazardous duty areas.” Currently recognized combat zones include the Sinai Peninsula, the Afghanistan area, the Kosovo area and the Arabian Peninsula, per the IRS website.

Trump accompanied her husband, President Donald Trump, on a surprise Christmas visit to the Al Asad Air Base near Baghdad, Iraq, in December 2018, Reuters reported. Iraq has been a designated combat zone via Executive Order No. 12744 since January 1991.

However, she is not the first First Lady to visit a combat zone, as defined by federal regulations, since 1969. At least two other former first ladies – Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush – have done so, as well.

In November 2015, Obama visited al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which has been designated a combat zone since 1991, according to the Department of Defense website. She showed her support for troops at the base while visiting Qatar and Jordan to promote education for adolescent girls, The New York Times reported.

Bush visited U.S. service members in Afghanistan in 2005 and 2008. The country was designated as a combat zone starting September 2001, according to the IRS website. (RELATED: Did Melania Trump Wear A Dress Featuring Drawings By Sexual Abuse Survivors?)

The year in the Instagram post appears to stem from former First Lady Pat Nixon’s visit to South Vietnam. She accompanied then-President Richard Nixon there in 1969, according to the Richard Nixon Foundation.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Tuzla Air Base in Bosnia in 1996 as first lady, though it does not appear to have been officially designated a combat zone at that time.

“Only the Persian Gulf region remains as a designated combat zone,” reads a June 1996 Department of Defense article. “U.S. forces serving in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Croatia as part of Operation Joint Endeavor currently receive tax and monetary benefits ‘as if’ they were in a combat zone.”

Jonathan Fonti

Fact Check Reporter
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