Debate over border wall gets personal

CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Steve Cortes clash over President Donald Trump's promised US-Mexico border wall.

Posted: Dec 20, 2018 7:33 PM
Updated: Dec 20, 2018 7:56 PM

A triple amputee Air Force veteran and motivational speaker is asking the 63 million Americans who voted for President Donald Trump to chip in $80 apiece for the border wall.

The total would meet Trump's request for $5 billion to build a wall along the United States' southern border with Mexico, with $40 million to spare. Trump said Wednesday, amid debate over a potential government shutdown, that Mexico would indirectly pay for the wall via a trade deal and that the US military would build it.

"Even if we get half, that's half the wall. We can do this," Brian Kolfage writes on his verified GoFundMe, which had raised almost $5 million from about 80,000 donors as of midday Thursday.

Kolfage had the idea about a year ago but decided to move forward Sunday because of "inaction from our politicians," he told CNN via email. He is surprised by the amount of money he's been able to raise, he wrote.

"I've been receiving thousands of emails from citizens who have waited in line to become Americans and completed this process the legal way. They are so thankful for this," he wrote. "They are giving and they are from both sides of the aisle, and that's why this movement is growing so fast. "

While the campaign has a goal of $1 billion, the Destin, Florida, man who lost both legs and his right hand in Iraq, says $1 billion is GoFundMe's max and he's working to have it increased. The most successful GoFundMe effort to date has raised more than $22 million and counting in the last year for the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, which provides counsel to victims of sexual abuse and harassment.

A call to stop 'illegals'

The grandson of immigrants who arrived in the United States "legally," he says, Kolfage is working with the White House to establish a point of contact for the money. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Mississippi, plans to introduce a bill directing the Treasury Department to issue bonds to fund the wall, though there are other options "on the table," Kolfage says on the GoFundMe page.

"We haven't spoken directly to the President but would like to," he told CNN via email. "After all, this is for his campaign promise. The people are yelling, and I hope he listens."

The veteran is working with a law firm to craft a binding document to ensure all money goes to the wall, and if the goal isn't reached, all donations will be refunded, he said.

Saying that Trump has "followed through on just about every promise" he made in his presidential campaign, Kolfage says it's every citizen's duty to help Trump overcome Democratic resistance to the wall and "make America safe again," the fundraising page says.

"Too many Americans have been murdered by illegal aliens and too many illegals are taking advantage of the United States taxpayers with no means of ever contributing to our society," the husband and father says in soliciting donations.

While it's unusual for Americans to kick in money above what they pay in taxes for government functions, it is not unheard of. Financier David Rubenstein has donated tens of millions to restore the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Arlington House and US Marine Corps War Memorial, as well as giving the National Zoo $9 million for its panda conservation efforts.

Life after horrific mortar wounds

Billing himself as the "most wounded US airman to survive his wounds," Kolfage says on his personal website that as a speaker, he can motivate groups and "inspire them to be better people in their daily life."

In a 2012 CNN profile, the Detroit native said he started his Air Force career in the security forces and traveled to Iraq and Kuwait after 9/11. By September 2004, he had caught the war bug, he said, and unsuccessfully volunteered to head to Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad.

Rather than give up his quest, Kolfage found a young airman who had been selected for the trip and tried to scare him, telling him he would get his legs blown off if he went to Iraq. The recruit bailed, allowing Kolfage to make the trip, he said.

On September 11, 2004, after a night of customs enforcement work, Kolfage awoke in the afternoon. Shortly after leaving his tent, he heard a blast that rendered him unconscious. When he came to, he learned a mortar had landed feet away from him, horrifically wounding him.

His friends would later tell him that while moving him to a stretcher, they had to hold his body parts in place for fear they'd fall off. In the on-base trauma center, the doctors tending to him "looked like they were scared s***less," he told CNN.

He woke up two weeks later in Ward 57 of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Doctors there told Kolfage he was the most seriously injured airman ever to survive his wounds, he said.

"If you saw those pictures, you would say, 'There's no way that guy lived.' Everything looked like it went through a meat grinder," Kolfage said.

No longer able to enjoy surfing, hockey or his service in the armed forces, Kolfage found a new calling in the architecture program at the University of Arizona, graduating in 2014 among the top in his class.

"I wouldn't say I'm glad I got injured," he told CNN in 2012, "but it made me the different person I am today." He called his ordeal "a big life lesson that no matter how grim something might be, you can make something positive out of it."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
Lauderdale76569
Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
Copiah3344
Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
Newton2924
Oktibbeha28314
Leflore28238
Lincoln28131
Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
Lowndes2529
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20416
Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
Itawamba897
Webster885
Panola873
Wilkinson859
Montgomery841
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun684
Walthall670
Amite651
Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
Bullock2197
Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
Crenshaw803
Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
Blount641
Lawrence510
Monroe492
Geneva450
Perry430
Conecuh421
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151
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