A Marine recipient of the nation's highest award for combat valor made headlines Tuesday night when he tweeted out a challenge to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, calling on him to apologize for recent verbal attacks on the Muslim family of a fallen soldier.
Today, Dakota Meyer told Military.com he still hopes to vote for Trump, but believes he had a moral obligation to speak out in the Gold Star family's defense. Meyer, a veteran Marine sergeant, received the Medal of Honor in 2011 for heroism under heavy fire during the Battle of Ganjgal, Afghanistan, in 2009.
"If @realDonaldTrump wants to be the Commander in Chief, he needs to act like one," Meyer wrote in a tweet that has since been reposted nearly 5,000 times. "And that can't start until he apologizes to the Khans."
Trump has been locked in a multi-day feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 in Iraq while trying to protect his troops from a suicide car bomb.
The Khans appeared at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 28 to support Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Khizr Khan delivered a strong rebuke to Trump, telling the candidate, "You have sacrificed nothing and no one."
Trump responded by calling the Khans' Pakistani-American Muslim heritage into focus, implying in interviews that Ghazala Khan had not said anything during the DNC appearance because she was not allowed to speak publicly. She has since written that her grief, not her religion, kept her silent.
"I just felt like it needed to be said," Meyer said of his call on Trump to apologize. "[Trump just keeps responding to it, and it felt like he just kept needing to justify it. What he doesn't understand is, it's a sacred family to the whole nation … that's why they're called a Gold Star family."
Meyer said he had not been personally in touch with the Khans and added that many had misinterpreted his Tweet as support for Clinton, which he stressed it is not.
"Nobody wants to vote for Hillary Clinton, but what I want is a commander in chief who definitely understands the people he'll be leading," Meyer said. "People who have sacrificed more than myself, like the Khan family."
Meyer explained he believed Clinton had "lied to the nation," referring to her statements in the immediate wake of the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that linked the attacks to a provocative anti-Muslim video. It would later be proved that the attacks were acts of terrorism.
Trump's comments and apparent unwillingness to apologize create a dilemma for Meyer, who previously endorsed Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and has himself flirted with the idea of running for office in the past.
Trump has shown no sign of backing down, tweeting on Monday that Khizr Khan had "viciously" attacked him at the DNC and in follow-up interviews.
"This story is not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews, but rather RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM and the U.S.," Trump said in another tweet. "Get smart!"
Meyer declined to discuss how he'd plan to vote if Trump did not heed the call to apologize, reiterating that he hoped Trump would do the right thing.
"Donald Trump has done so great. He goes around and makes people feel like they're back on top," he said. "The hope is that Donald Trump needs to step up and get focused and be the great leader that I know he can be. Donald Trump is the only hope we have for change."