KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
One of the many people criticizing Trump's comments about the Kahn family is Karen Meredith. She's with VoteVets. That's a progressive veterans' organization. And her son, Army Lieutenant Ken Ballard, was killed in Iraq. Today Meredith signed her name to an open letter to Donald Trump.
KAREN MEREDITH: Your recent comments regarding the Khan family were repugnant and personally offensive to us. When you question a mother's pain by implying her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you were attacking us.
MCEVERS: That letter was signed by the families of 22 other people killed in action. Earlier today I talked to Karen Meredith, and she told me her family actually has a personal connection to the Khan family.
MEREDITH: My son is buried in the same row as their son. In fact my son was killed seven days before Captain Khan was killed. So a lot of us were watching and holding them in our hearts. And immediately when Donald Trump reacted - not responded but reacted - to his words, it was quite disturbing and quite upsetting.
MCEVERS: What did you want the letter to accomplish?
MEREDITH: We want an apology from Trump, but I don't think we're going to get it. He has said he doesn't apologize. However, I would also like to see the Republican leadership stand up and rebuke Mr. Trump's comments.
MCEVERS: This seems like such a new thing. You know, politicians almost always defer to respect when talking to veterans even if they have differences of opinion.
MCEVERS: But now we have a candidate that doesn't do that, that will criticize vets. Do you worry that people who support Trump, who plan to vote for Trump are glad that he doesn't follow certain rules of decorum anymore?
MEREDITH: I am worried about the general level of discourse in this country, that we seem to have lost our kindness. And people feel based on Trump's lead that they can say anything they want to anybody they want.
MCEVERS: Your organization, VoteVets, does support Democrats.
MCEVERS: What would you say to people who would tell you that your letter is all about partisan politics?
MEREDITH: And that we're being used (laughter).
MCEVERS: Is that an accusation that you've heard?
MEREDITH: Yes, and that is an insult as well, as if we don't have our own opinion and as if we don't have our own choice. Nobody is using anybody who's on this letter. Nobody's name was put on that letter without express permission. People asked to be put on the letter because they feel so strongly about this apology.
MCEVERS: Your son was named Ken.
MEREDITH: First Lieutenant Ken Ballard.
MCEVERS: And he served in Iraq.
MEREDITH: Three-hundred-eighty-four days.
MCEVERS: What do you think people should know about him?
MEREDITH: Oh, how long do you have?
MEREDITH: He was my only child, so we had a pretty good relationship. And I got to talk to him quite often while he was in Iraq. He was a first lieutenant, so it was his first time leading men, and he took that responsibility very heavily. He was worried about making sure that everybody came home, and he was the only one who didn't. So he loved being in the Army. He loved being a tanker. And I just miss him every day.
Losing a child, you know - there's not a name. If you lose your parents, you're an orphan, but there's no name for a parent who has lost a child, not in any language because it's so painful. It's just hard.
And this behavior by Trump - you know, you think about your child every single day, but the wound was sort of healed or healing. But he ripped it open. He doesn't - I don't think he has the capacity to understand losing a child, let alone losing your only child.
MCEVERS: Well, Karen Meredith, thank you so much for your time today.
MEREDITH: Thank you.
MCEVERS: Karen Meredith is the military families coordinator with VoteVets. Her son, Ken, was killed in Iraq in 2004.
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