‘Help Trump get a Purple Heart’ helps Syrian refugees instead
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‘Help Trump get a Purple Heart’ helps Syrian refugees instead

Trump shows off the Purple Heart given to him by a supporter at one of his campaign rallies
Orient Net - R. Sikora
Date: 2016-10-11 08:00
U.S. Army veteran Cameron Kerr of Virginia had meant it to be a joke. 

But the satirical GoFundMe campaign he started to “Help Trump get a Purple Heart” of his own, ended up raising more than $ 60,000 that Kerr donated to organizations that help Syrian refugees.

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military. It is the nation’s oldest military award.

Kerr, who was given a Purple Heart of his own after losing a leg to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011, came up with the idea for the campaign after comments Trump made while showing off a Purple Heart that one of his supporters had given him.

“I always wanted a Purple Heart, this was much easier,” Trump had said.

His comment did not sit well with Kerr.

“He doesn’t understand the fact that you have to bleed and/or die [to receive a Purple Heart],” Kerr said. “As with seemingly everything else in his life, Mr. Trump got one handed to him instead of earning it.”

“As a Purple Heart recipient who earned one the old-fashioned way by returning from Afghanistan one leg lighter, I fully endorse his desire to earn one and would happily oblige his interest in doing so by being one of the first to chip in to fly him to the conflict zone of his choosing,” Kerr had written on the GoFundMe page he created on August 2, 2016.

“After all, you’re never too old to follow your dreams,” he added.

Kerr was shocked when within five days the campaign had raised more than $ 54,000 of a $ 60,000 goal.

Knowing that sending Trump to a war zone was more wishful thinking than realistic possibility, Kerr began considering an alternative use for the money from the gag campaign that was continuing to come in.

Wanting it to go towards a cause that would “help humanity on the macro level” and “not go anywhere near where [Trump] would have wanted to go” Kerr decided that the fundraiser money would go to benefit charities working with Syrian refugees.

Kerr told Kevin Knodell of War Is Boring that as a group Syrians have been “slandered, denigrated and mischaracterized” more than almost any other group in 2016. 

And much of the damage has been done by Trump during his sham of a presidential campaign.

Kerr has firsthand experience of the effects of war on civilians in the Middle East, as well as a personal connection to the topic of refugees that runs deep. 

Beginning in 1983, an estimated 20,000 young boys from villages in southern Sudan had been driven from their families by the Sudanese civil war. 

Most of them no more than six or seven years old, they had fled to Ethiopia to escape death, or being forced into serving as child soldiers in the northern army. 

Half of them died before completing the more than 1000 mile walk to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. The survivors of this tragic exodus became known as the “Lost Boys” of Sudan.

Close to 4000 “Lost Boys” arrived in the United States in 2001 seeking peace, freedom and education. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helped hundreds of them to start new lives in cities across the country.

Kerr and his family had worked to help resettle some of those Sudanese “Lost Boys.”

He admits that not all them transitioned seamlessly  —  a few former child soldiers have struggled with alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder; but most became productive members of society and some even started their own businesses. 

“A lot of these guys are more deserving of their citizenship than a lot of natural born Americans,” Kerr added.

But not all Americans share his empathy for refugees, especially Syrian refugees.

Even though the response to his fundraiser was overwhelmingly positive, Kerr told Knodell that some commenters challenged him and questioned his motives. Some asked why he wasn’t raising money for his fellow veterans instead of refugees.

Kerr does not believe that supporting either group should be exclusive and says that veterans groups and resources for transitioning soldiers already exist in the U.S. 

“The veterans of America have it tough sometimes, but nowhere near as a tough as refugees,” he said. “We don’t have our own government dropping barrel bombs on our homes … they need it more.”

Many Americans who support Syrian refugees have been subjected to unabashed hatred from Trump supporters — and Kerr is no exception.

Some commenters went so far as to equate Kerr’s support for Syrian refugees with support for terrorism.

“I had one or two tell me I was supporting the enemy,” he told Knodell. “There were people straight up accusing me of borderline treason.”

For Kerr, serving in the military is fundamentally about serving others, and those notions reflect a form of patriotism he doesn’t recognize. 

He says that hating Muslims while claiming to support veterans; neither helps veterans, nor makes the world a safer or better place for anyone.

In the end, Kerr chose to split the fundraiser money three ways with a little over $ 20,000 each going to the International Rescue Committee, the Syrian American Medical Society and Refugees Welcome International.

He is the first to acknowledge that it is just a drop in the bucket in the face of the overwhelming needs created by the crisis in Syria. 

“What we’ve seen is there’s so much apathy. After five years of war people get bored.”

The world would be a better place for all of us if we followed Kerr’s example of converting Trump’s “toxic bigotry, ignorance, and callousness into something positive,” as he wrote before closing his GoFundMe page.

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