STORM LAKE — Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says President Trump’s Independence Day “Salute to America” in Washington, D.C. used the military as “props” for his ego.

“I’ve always been proud of the fact that our country is not the kind of place where we feel the need to go over the top in proving how tough we are,” Buttigieg told Radio Iowa Thursday afternoon. “…America has not generally been, at least in my times, the kind of country where a leader found it necessary to roll tanks down the streets to prove that we were strong and so, in a way, I think it actually makes us seem smaller.”

Buttigieg walked in Storm Lake’s July 4th parade and he called it the kind of event that celebrated what is “good and special” about America, in contrast to the production in D.C.

“There’s this feeling with this president of trying too hard, maybe trying to compensate for his own failures when it came to his chance to serve,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t know.”

During the Vietnam War, Trump received four military deferments as a college student and another for a foot condition. Buttigieg was an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve. There’s a history of military service in Buttigieg’s family, but Buttigieg said he enlisted after volunteering for the Obama campaign in 2007 and knocking on doors in southern Iowa’s Decatur, Ringgold and Union Counties.

“There I was, in my mid-to-late 20s, in Iowa, realizing that these towns are pouring out their youth into the American military and I still haven’t worn my country’s uniform. You know, what am I doing? And it was the thing that put me over the top,” he said.

Buttigieg was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013.

“When I left (Afghanistan) in 2014, I thought I was one of the last guys turning out the lights on the way out and five years later we’re still there. We’re still debating how to get out. We’ve got to find a way to put an end to endless wars,” Buttigieg said. “I’m afraid we’re not that far from the day when I’ll open up the news and read about an American casualty in Afghanistan who was not alive on 9/11.”

Buttigieg said the U.S. can have some military presence in Afghanistan to ensure another terrorist attack on our country originates from Afghanistan, but he added that doesn’t mean an open-ended commitment to having so many troops on the ground.

Buttigieg, in an interview with Radio Iowa after Storm Lake’s parade, discussed his military background as well as the mechanics of his bid for the presidency. Buttigieg’s campaign announced it has raised nearly $25 million in the past three months. Buttieg said he’ll spend the bulk of that to organize get-out-the-vote efforts in “very specific places” — beginning with Iowa.

“We’re developing our ground game now to a new level because we have the resources to do it, It’s a race. It’s also a unique dynamic because there’s just so many of us,” Buttigieg said, with a laugh.

Buttigieg was among the six presidential candidates who spent their July 4th campaigning in Iowa.