Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will have a chance to get to know the top two presidential nominees up close and personal Wednesday night during the first-ever Commander-in-Chief Forum, which is set to be televised live in New York City. The event is meant to give voters -- in particular former and current members of the military, who are expected to make up the bulk of the live audience -- an intimate look at proposed presidential policies of Republican Donald Trump and his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton as they relate to national security, military affairs and veterans issues.
Hosted by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and moderated by NBC anchor Matt Lauer, the event is scheduled to take place at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and will be simulcast beginning at 8 p.m. EDT on both NBC and MSNBC. While the first official presidential debate is set for later this month, Wednesday's event should serve as a proper prelude despite the candidates taking the stage at separate times.
If you can't get in front of a TV screen, it will also be live streamed online on MSNBC. To watch the live stream for free, click here, or scroll down to the end of the story to watch a live video feed embedded on the page.
MSNBC has billed the event as being "unprecedented," and IAVA revealed it has been lobbying for such an event since last year.
"IAVA is proud to lead this historic event for our veterans community and all Americans," Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of IAVA, said in a statement. "On the cusp of the 15th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, New York is a fitting stage to give voice to American veterans and service members that are all too often shut out of our political debate. IAVA members world-wide, 93% of whom say they’ll be voting in November, and many deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, are ready to hear from the candidates and hold them accountable. IAVA is honored to join with NBC on this significant event that will ensure that America’s next Commander-in-Chief, at least for one night, addresses our nation’s moral obligation to support and empower its 22 million veterans, our servicemembers and our military families."
Trump has had a tepid relationship with veterans, as the New York billionaire previously mocked Arizona Sen. John McCain and questioned whether he was a hero for being a prisoner of war. Months afterward in January, he skipped a Republican presidential primary debate to host a fundraiser that ultimately benefitted 41 organizations supporting veterans and the military, yielding nearly $6 million, the Associated Press reported.
Lately, Trump's been making inroads of sorts with the military community, including a speech last week during which he vowed to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, while Clinton is polling ahead of Trump nationally, a separate survey published in July by the Military Times shows that the U.S. armed forces community as a whole seems to think that both candidates leave much to be desired.
Clinton has also been reaching out to veterans, including a speech late last month to the American Legion National Convention that focused in part on the former secretary of state's experience in foreign policy, such as her inclusion in the planning of the Pakistan raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Trump is more popular with military families than Clinton is, according to a poll published last month, underscoring the importance for each in Wednesday's forum.
Watch the live stream below.