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.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
Bolivar4087109
Oktibbeha403581
Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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