The most potent moment of the Democratic convention last week was when Khizr Khan, father of an Army captain killed in Iraq in 2004, challenged Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. "You have sacrificed nothing and no one," Khan said to Trump, holding aloft a copy of the Constitution that he suggested Trump read.
Trump's immediate response was to criticize Khan and his wife, earning a number of rebukes from veterans and members of his own party. "There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed," said a statement from the head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
At a campaign event in Virginia on Tuesday, Trump tried to mend any damage he'd done with members of the military in an unusual way: He accepted a Purple Heart from a veteran in the audience.
"Something very nice just happened to me. A man came up to me and he handed me his Purple Heart," Trump said. "I said to him, is that the real one, or is that a copy? He said, 'That's my real Purple Heart. I have such confidence in you.' And I said, 'Man, that's big stuff.'"
"I always wanted to get the Purple Heart," Trump continued. "This was much easier."
The Purple Heart is given to those serving in the armed forces who are wounded in combat. Trump never served in the military, though he once said that he "always felt that I was in the military" because he went to military school. He was old enough to have been drafted during the Vietnam War, but received five deferments. Four of them were because he was still in school; the fifth was medical. Trump, his doctor said, had bone spurs on his heels.
"I had a doctor that gave me a letter — a very strong letter on the heels," the nominee told the New York Times in a recent interview. He couldn't remember which heel was affected (his campaign said it was both) or how it was resolved, but it was enough to keep him out of combat.
(In a 1993 interview with Howard Stern, Trump jokingly said that he had lived through his own Vietnam: the dating scene in New York City. In 2004, he said that the threat of sexually transmitted diseases from dating was like combat in Vietnam or Iraq.)
After Trump told the story about receiving the Purple Heart, he invited the man who had given it to him up on stage, prompting cheers from the audience and chants of "USA!"
On Monday night, a woman at a town hall event in Nevada told Trump's vice presidential pick, Gov. Mike Pence, that she was the mother of a man serving in the Air Force. The crowd applauded.
"My question for you, Mr. Pence, is: Time and time again, Trump has disrespected our nation's armed forces and veterans," she said, "and his disrespect for Mr. Khan and his family is just an example."
Much of the rest of her question was drowned out in boos.
Pence replied to the booing. "That's what freedom looks like," he said, according to Politico, "and that's what freedom sounds like."
In a statement released over the weekend, Trump replied to Khan's criticism.
"While I feel deeply for the loss of his son," a statement from the campaign read, "Mr. Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things."