Former President Donald Trump hosted the Gold Star families of the 13 U.S. service soldiers who died in the suicide bombing at the Kabul Airport in 2021 late last month, according to a report obtained by the press this week.
“Trump was way more than I expected,” said Christy Shamblin, the mother-in-law of Sergeant Nicole Gee. “The contrast is stark with the president we met at Dover.”
The 45th president “knew so much about the event, the kids, Bagram and who made decisions… He was a normal human and made eye contact, answered every question, even the uncomfortable ones,” Shamblin continued.
Trump reportedly surprised everyone by spending several additional hours with them after their meeting, during which he signed photographs of their children and even a pair of bejeweled high heels at one point.
Another mother of a slain soldier, Paula Knauss Selph, sobbed as she watched Trump write the same words that she frequently used to tell her son Ryan on a framed photograph of him: “You are My Hero.”
When the families finally sat down to eat dinner, Trump joined them, pulled out his iPad, and took over as the evening’s DJ, playing songs such as “God Bless the USA” and other notable hit tunes.
Trump’s promise to “get the answers that we are fighting so hard to find out, and particularly releasing all the footage that has been buried, and/or suppressed, and/or destroyed by this current administration” was all the more noteworthy, given that these Gold Star families have been consistently butting heads with the Biden administration.
The Gold Star families’ requests to receive their children’s possessions back, possessions as basic as their SIM cards, have gone unanswered by the current administration.
Justice and accountability were highlighted as two of the key topics of the families’ testimonies before President Trump’s visit at a session of the bipartisan House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Between Congress and Trump, it turned into a really good week,” said Darin Hoover, Staff Sergeant Taylor Hoover’s father. “Lots of emotion and good times.”
Throughout the hearing, the committee’s chair, Michael McCaul, emphasized that the White House would be watching. McCaul then began reading a letter that General Mark Milley had sent him.
“We owe them accountability,” Milley wrote.
However, many of the service members’ families and GOP officials maintained that those remarks were “hollow.”
Milley “wouldn’t know the meaning of the word if he Googled it,” said Republican Representative Darrell Issa, who initially brought the Gold Star families together with a visit to Washington before hosting them at the hearing.
Hoover also voiced blunt opinions and called for the resignation of Milley, Lieutenant Colonel Brad Whited, and Major Geoff Ball throughout his testimony.
“I want General Milley’s stars, I want Colonel Whited’s birds, I want Major Ball’s oak clusters in my hand, now. You can no longer lead. None of you have the respect of your men and women any more.”
In a forthcoming hearing held behind closed doors, committee members will question Whited on the choices he made.
Another specific demand expressed by McCaul and backed by Steve Nikoui, the father of Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, is that Biden commemorate their slain children with a Rose Garden ceremony.
The 13 Americans killed by a suicide bomber, who were “released by the Taliban from a prison at Bagram Air Base, which the Biden administration abandoned” were repeatedly commemorated by parents like Hunter Lopez’s mother, Alicia.
The identities of the deceased service members and their sacrifices have still never been highlighted publicly by Biden.
However, some Democrats did receive praise at the event.
Shamblin showed Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, the only Democrat official there at the hearing, praise and immense gratitude. According to Shamblin, Dean “was very hope-inspiring and honestly, just being heard was great.”
In contrast, the “total blackout from our current administration has been totally disrespectful and tone deaf,” Shamblin reiterated.
Many members of the group of Gold Star families have still not received any attention or commemoration from their legislators. A Gold Star mother had informed reporters that, despite promising to meet with her in Washington, D.C., and their district, Democrat Congressman Pete Aguilar has consistently shunned her in her attempts to meet.
Aguilar was also “invited to attend the dedication ceremony on the renaming of the overcrossing to LCPL Dylan Merola in which he did not attend but sent an office staffer in his place who also did not introduce himself to me while we had seven or eight district Congress members attend who did come up to meet me and some had plaques in honor of Dylan to present to me.”