As a parent and as the son of a World War II veteran, count me among those horribly offended by Donald Trump’s recent comments targeting the family of Army Captain Humayun Khan. Capt. Khan’s family paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation – losing their son in service to our country in Iraq in 2004.
Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. Nothing can be worse. I regularly pray for the families of those now serving in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and wonder how they manage to get any sleep at night knowing that their son or daughter is in harm’s way and wondering what fate awaits them every day.
As a legislator, I have witnessed some incredibly emotional moments – the painful moments of the last goodbye at a military funeral, the haunting melody and symbolism as a bugler plays “Taps” and an American flag folded and then held tightly by a wife, husband, parent, or child. I have sat with Gold Star families over dinner, heard their stories, and felt their grief.
There are many Gold Star families in Texas’ 23rd District. I join the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Republican Sen. John McCain, and countless others in defending these families and stating that Donald Trump’s comments about the parents of an American hero were totally inappropriate and way out of line. Mr. Trump’s comments were low – even for him.
I am shocked that, as a parent, Mr. Trump would denigrate and disrespect the searing pain that must accompany the loss of a child, and he doesn’t understand the gratitude and debt all of us have to the families of our fallen military men and women. Their sacrifices, in conflicts throughout 240 years of the American experience, have enabled our country to emerge as the most successful democracy in the history of the world.
I also am shocked that Mr. Trump followed up his initial insults by claiming that he, too, had “made a lot of sacrifices” in his life. By likening his life experiences to those of a family who has lost a loved one in combat, Mr. Trump further damages his own brand and that of the political party he represents.
My father was part of the “Greatest Generation.” He fought in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He sacrificed much and saw things that changed him, things that even decades later, he still could not talk about. What would my father say about comparing Mr. Trump’s business ventures to the sacrifice of a young man’s life in defense of our nation? That is not hard to imagine.
There is a saying in Spanish that translates loosely to “nothing bad ever happens that something good doesn’t come out of.” Our country has been very polarized. It is good, then, to see men and women from the right and left, Republicans and Democrats of all faiths, ethnicities, and persuasions, come together to denounce Mr. Trump’s views. It is good to know that there are still parts of our national conversation where no divide exists and common decency still reigns.
It is also good that people across the political spectrum are now engaging in a conversation that must be had, a conversation that deepens our national awareness of the challenges and obstacles facing our service members and their loved ones day in and day out.
When speaking of our armed services, veterans, and families – regardless of party affiliation – we as Americans must hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must recognize that those who step up to the plate deserve more than just gratitude and respect. Despite any budget crisis, they deserve to be first in line.
Lashing out against the family of a fallen hero on Twitter is unbecoming of any leader. Insulting a former prisoner of war like Sen. John McCain is unbecoming of any leader. Ironically, Mr. Trump seeks to be not just a leader, but the leader of the entire free world. How can he not put aside his pride and recognize the huge mistake he’s made?
Americans, and particularly Texans in Congressional District 23, deserve better. They deserve leaders with the courage and conviction to call out ignorance and bigotry. They deserve a leader who lifts his or her voice in defense of our sons and daughters, not one who uses his voice to criticize our own, or one who sits idly and silently by as our sons and daughters are disparaged.
I often tell others that the only part of politics I don’t like is the “political” part. If there is a positive result from this national discussion, I hope it is that the American people elect leaders who value patriotism and public policy above their party and politics.
Nothing less than our future and that of our children is at stake in this election. Let us pray that, like the “Greatest Generation,” we, too, are up to the task.
Top image: Khizr Khan, father of deceased U.S. Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan, waves as he delivers remarks along with his wife Ghazala Khan on the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia. Photo by Joe Raedle for Getty Images.