AUGUSTA — On a day when Donald Trump was taking flak from Republicans nationally, Maine veterans and lawmakers also criticized the party’s presidential nominee for engaging in a war of words with the parents of a Muslim-American Army captain who was killed in action.

Trump lashed out at the soldier’s mother and father after the father criticized Trump in a speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Khizr Khan, the father of Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004, criticized Trump for his anti-Muslim rhetoric and statements, including that he would place a moratorium on immigration to the United States by those in Muslim countries.

“You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” Khizr Khan said to Trump at the close of his speech.

Trump later responded in a television interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” Trump said. “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs – built great structures.”


Corey Wilson, an Augusta Republican who served in the Maine Legislature for one term after two tours of combat duty in Iraq from 2004 to 2006, said Trump clearly doesn’t understand the sacrifices made by those who served in Iraq.

“His statements have just been kind of remarkable, even for Donald Trump,” the former Marine said. “Yes, he’s been a successful businessman, but it doesn’t ever equate to, nor will it ever equate to, somebody who has sacrificed his life for his country.”

Wilson said he hoped Trump would have taken the “high road” and not gotten into a back-and-forth debate with the grieving family members of a fallen soldier. Wilson said he and other Iraq War veterans remain frustrated at the current state of affairs in Iraq, but that doesn’t excuse Trump’s callousness.

Wilson understands those who have criticized the Democratic Party for having Khizr Khan speak, but the father was practicing his First Amendment rights and it was germane to the debate over who is better suited to lead the country.

“I know a lot of Muslims who are tremendously good people, I’ve served with them, and (Donald Trump) has gone out of his way to repeatedly attack them,” Wilson said. “So I can understand why Capt. Khan’s father would say what he did. They also have a right to speak and be free, as does any Muslim that aspires to be an American as well.”

Wilson, however, said he still is likely to vote for Trump because he wouldn’t vote for the Democrat in the race, Hillary Clinton. Wilson hopes that if Trump is elected president he will surround himself with “good people” to keep him in check.


“Hopefully, he will learn some good behaviors while he is here,” Wilson said of Trump’s expected visit to Maine on Thursday.

State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, who is running for his second term, also served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine. He said Trump lost any chance for his support months ago when he criticized Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who survived six years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, for being captured. McCain also issued a long statement Monday criticizing Trump’s response to the Khan family.

“He had no chance with me the moment he insulted Sen. John McCain,” Golden said. “McCain served his country, endured torture and refused preferential treatment because of his father’s position as a military commander. Meanwhile, Trump used his father’s money to defer service and go to an Ivy League school.

“He is literally the fortunate son with silver spoon in hand. He doesn’t understand service or sacrifice. His insult of a Gold Star family is inexcusable and unbecoming of anyone who wants to be commander in chief, regardless of how they choose to exercise their freedom of speech or expression. Their son fought for those rights and American values.”

Golden, other lawmakers and veterans have been critical of both Democrats and Republicans for using grieving family members of those killed in action during their national conventions. Republicans had family members of those killed during an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, speak out against Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time.

“In regard to the DNC and RNC having grieving families of Afghanistan, Iraq or Benghazi on stage, I think it’s indicative of the civilian-military divide and the fact that 99 percent of Americans don’t serve in the military today,” Golden said. “Less than 1 percent have carried us through more than a decade of war, and most people have no understanding of what they experience or what the families of the fallen feel.”


Rep. Brad Farrin, R-Norridgewock, a career Maine Air National Guardsman who served a combat tour in Iraq in 2008 and later served in the Horn of Africa, also was disappointed with Trump’s remarks toward the Khan family.

“Regardless of their background or where they are from, there is no greater sacrifice that a family can make than to give their son or their daughter for our country,” said Farrin, who is also seeking re-election. But Farrin was quick to say he didn’t support Clinton either because he didn’t believe the status quo was working for those still serving in combat roles.

“I was there in Iraq and I saw what the rules of engagement meant for our soldiers and airmen who couldn’t go out and defend themselves after dark when insurgents are out planting roadside bombs,” Farrin said. “I’m not a politician and I’m disgusted by the whole thing as far as what we have for choices and everything else that’s going on, but on this one particular matter – how do you lash out at a father and mother who lost their son defending this country? I really struggle with that.”

Outgoing state Rep. Larry Dunphy, an independent from Embden who served in a non-combat role as a Navy corpsman, was disappointed with both parties for using veterans and their families to score political points.

“Neither side is truly serving their constituents, they are serving themselves,” Dunphy said. He said he was equally disappointed by other elected officials, especially those who held statewide offices, for refusing to say anything critical of their party’s candidate for president.

He asked: “Don’t you think that our constituents have a right to know where we stand on all of the issues if we are going to be representing them on all of the issues?”


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