Gold Star Mother says Trump showed ‘disrespect’ to family

The mother of an Army sergeant killed in Niger said Wednesday that President Donald Trump, in a call offering condolences, showed “disrespect” to the soldier’s loved ones as they drove to the airport to meet his body.

Trump strongly disputed that account after he flatly lied about the way former presidents have shown compassion for fallen soldiers and their families.

Sgt. La David Johnson was one of four American military personnel killed nearly two weeks ago.

Those families had not heard from Trump until Tuesday, when Rep. Frederica Wilson reported  that the president told Myeshia Johnson, the sergeant’s widow that Johnson “knew what he signed up for.”

The congresswoman was in the car with Myeshia Johnson and other family members when the White House call came through because she has been a long time family friend, who knew the slain soldier and share their grief at his loss.

Myeshia Johnson cries over the casket of her husband, an Army sergeant who was killed in Africa when his unit was ambushed.

The president has been criticized for ignoring military heroes. “Trump has tweeted 105 times since four US military personnel were killed in Niger on October 4,” said Victoria Brownworth. “He’s tweeted 19 times about patriotism. Not one tweet for our soldiers.”

Trump used his Twitter feed to escalate the battle over a call to a war widow in which he is alleged to have been insensitive. Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning that the witness to the call had “totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”

Trump strongly disputed that account after he flatly lied about the way former presidents have shown compassion for fallen soldiers and their families. 

Wilson stood by her story and denounced Trump as a “liar” and “crazy.”  The Florida Democrat said that she had known the slain soldier for a long time, had “mentored” him and she was in the car with the widow, Myeshia Johnson, on the way to Miami International Airport to meet the body when Trump called. 

La David Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, said that the congresswoman’s account was correct. 

“Yes the statement is true,” Jones-Johnson said. “I was in the car and I heard the full conversation. Not only did he disrespect my son,” but he disrespected his wife and me and my husband. 

The President’s insensitive remarks brought her daughter in law to tears and shocked those who were able to hear the contents of the call, which was received as the family was en route to collect the soldier’s coffin. 

Myeshia Johnson is expecting the couple’s third child in January. The couple have a 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.  

Trump said Wednesday. He declared on Twitter: “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”

But Wilson did not back down from her account, adding that Trump at one point could not remember the slain sergeant’s name.

“It’s disgraceful for him to even tweet about this,” she said, adding: “And as I say, this gentleman has a brain disorder and he needs to be checked out.”

Like presidents before him, Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen but not all. What’s different is that Trump, alone among them, has picked a political fight with Gold Star families — those who had lost a family member who was in uniform.

Trump brazenly lied by saying past presidents didn’t place calls to families of military casualties. Barack Obama and George W. Bush each made  conscientious efforts to write, call or meet with bereaved military families even though they presided over far more combat casualties than the roughly two dozen so far under Trump.

Several media outlets have found relatives of  soldiers who died overseas during Trump’s presidency who said they never received a call or a letter from him.

Khizr Muazzam Khan and his wife, Ghazala, found themselves being attacked by Trump after they denounced the Republican’s plan to ban immigrants based on their religion.

This is not the first time Trump has been rude to survivors of military troops who gave their lives for the nation.

During the campaign, Trump engaged in a tirade against Khizr Muazzam Khan and his wife, Ghazala, the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim soldier who was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for sacrificing his life saving his fellow soldiers in Iraq.

“If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America,” Khan said, referring to Trump’s call to ban Muslims from the United States.

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Khizr Khan held up a copy of Constitution of the United States, which he offered to lend to Trump after the Republican candidate announced his plan to ban immigrants based on their religion.  

Trump suggested that Gen. John F. Kelly, his chief of staff, could attest in his support as he perpetuated a false claim that Obama never called families of fallen U.S. service members. .

Kelly’s son, Marine Lt. Robert M. Kelly, was killed by a land mine on on November 9, 2010 at the age of 29, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Kelly’s other son, Marine Major John Kelly, served two combat tours in Iraq, and his daughter Kathleen Kelly, worked for the American Red Cross. 

White House records show Kelly and his wife, Heather, attended the May 2011 breakfast Obama hosted a for Gold Star families. They were seated at first lady Michelle Obama’s table.

Kelly also attended 2012 White House dinner honoring “those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn” hosted by Obama.

Kelly previously resisted efforts to link children’s deaths with politics and policy.

Earlier this year, when Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to establish the VOICE office — Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement — Kelly, then head of the agency, reportedly resisted efforts to highlight families whose kids were killed by undocumented immigrants.

In September, Republican US Senator John McCain said Trump still hasn’t apologized for disparaging his war record on the campaign trail.

Trump denied that McCain is “a hero” although the former decorated U.S. Navy pilot, was imprisoned in Vietnam for more than five years, during which time he was tortured and kept in solitary confinement.

In 2015, Trump ridiculed McCain’s military service saying, “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said, adding “I like people that weren’t captured.”

Trump offered a grieving military father $25,000 during a condolence call, but never followed through on the offer. 

Trump spoke for about 15 minutes with Chris Baldridge, of Zebulon, North Carolina — the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, who died in a June 10 attack by Afghan police.

Baldridge told the president his ex-wife will receive the Pentagon’s $100,000 death gratuity as their son’s beneficiary, so that won’t alleviate his financial difficulties and a GoFundMe page has raised only a little more than $1,000.

Despite Trump’s promise, Baldridge only received a condolence letter in the mail. “I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest,” he said. “I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, ‘Damn, no check.’ Just a letter saying ‘I’m sorry.’”

White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said that the check is in the mail.

 


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