October 19, 2017

Gold Star Mother to Trump, ‘Stop, Please, Just Stop’

Army soldiers salute their comrade, Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, during his funeral service on June 23, 2017. (Photo: Kayla Lasure/Ashe Mountain Times)

Already under fire for showing “disrespect” to family of fallen soldier, president urged to “at least pretend to know what empathy is.”

By Jon Queally / 10.19.2017

In the wake of remarks he made to one family of a soldier killed in action that have been described as “deplorable” and representing the behavior of a “sick man,” another parent who lost a son in battle is saying that President Donald Trump, a billionaire, offered him a personal gift of $25,000 to help with financial woes, but only followed through after the story of the broken promised was made public on Wednesday.

After his 22-year-old son, Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, was gunned down in Afghanistan earlier this year, Chris Baldridge said he received a phone call from the president in which Trump said, as the Washington Post reports, “offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family.” Subsequently, however, neither of those things happened.

According to Baldridge’s account of the call, “[Trump] said, ‘I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored… I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ ”

While a spokesperson for the White House said a “check was sent,” reporting by CNN and other outlets confirmed the check was issued on Wednesday and only after the Post story surfaced.

Amid the new revelations—coupled with the uproar of Trump’s widely criticized handling of his phone call with the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed with three other U.S. soldiers in Niger last month—veteran’s groups are among the many voices saying they are appalled by Trump’s behavior in recent days.

Karen Meredith, coordinator of Gold Star and Military Families for the advocacy group VoteVets, who lost her son, First Lt. Ken Ballard, in Iraq, told the president in a statement posted online Wednesday, “Mr. Trump, stop. Please, just stop. Your actions and words on this entire matter of the fallen in Niger is disgraceful, and unbecoming of a President of the United States and commander in chief.”

Meredith continued, “This is not about you, it is about them. It is about all of us who lost our loved ones, in war. For once in your life, please stop making everything about you. For once in your life, at least pretend to know what empathy is. For once in your life, at least try to care about other people and their feelings.”

Baldridge said he did receive a letter from the administration after his Juna call with Trump, but there was no check inside. “I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking,” he said. “But I was like, ‘Damn, no check.’ Just a letter saying ‘I’m sorry.'”

In an interview with ABC News, Cpl. Baldridge’s mother Jessie Baldridge said that family actually never expected Trump to follow through and ultimately began treating it as a joke.

“The money doesn’t mean anything to me at all—not even a little,” she said. “He didn’t have to say that. He could have just said, ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ and ‘We really appreciate your service and your sacrifice, have a nice day.'”

And while Dillon’s father previously told local journalists he felt “betrayed” by his government over the loss of his son, his mother added, “I would give my own life to have Dillon back.”