Khizr Khan speaks with students in the Veterans Center


Josh LaBellaNews Editor

Khizr Khan told veterans in the Southern Connecticut State University Veterans’ Center that the country is better and safer because of their service.

Khan, a Pakistani-American Gold Star father who entered the public sphere when he gave a speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and questioned whether then presidential candidate Donald Trump had ever read the Constitution, visited Southern’s Veteran Center on Thursday afternoon to talk with students who had served in the military about their service and the Constitution. Khan spoke about his support for veterans running for office.

“I have been supporting many veterans that are running for various offices – especially for Congress,” said Khan, speaking on April 12. “The reason is that it’s a continuation of the service. It’s continuing to serve the nation. Who else is more suited than those who have proven their metal? Those who have served with courage and dignity and amazing valor.”

Khizr Khan joining conversation at Southern in the Veterans’ Center.

Khan said supporting veterans running for office is close to his heart because they wore the same uniform as his son Humayun – who was killed in Iraq in 2004. He said the “phenomenon” of veterans running for office was really positive.

“The more veterans we have in our government, in our system of government and our Congress,” said Khan, “we are better served.”

Throughout the dialogue, Khan answered questions and spoke about the Constitution. He said no other country in the world has written their constitution the way the United States has. He said his favorite part is the First and the Fourteenth Amendments.

“It’s an amazing document,” said Khan, “look at the result of it. We have so far been a beacon of hope to the rest of the world.”

When asked whether immigrants have more appreciation for the rights granted in the Constitution than citizens who were born in the United States, Khan said there is a natural lack of appreciation among those who enjoy their liberties from birth. He said when he first read the document he could not imagine that one day he would become part of the nation that has those liberties guaranteed.

“When I went to take the oath of citizenship, I paused outside the courtroom before I entered and I reflected on what is about to happen,” said Khan. “What was about to happen is I was about to become a dignified human being. It is that that the rest of the world aspires to have in their life.”

Jack Mordente, director of Veterans’ Services, said while Khan had thanked him and the other veterans there for their service, he wanted to thank him for his and for the sacrifice he made. He then gave Khan a stole that Veterans’ Services give to graduating veterans to wear with their cap and gown.

Jack Mordente, director of Veterans’ Services, among those present.

“As you can see, it reads ‘Valor and Respect: United States Veteran,’” said Mordente. “And I would like to give this to you – on behalf of your son.”

Khan said he would place it in a spot in his living room dedicated to his son’s books, medals, and other items. Afterward, Khan was asked if President Donald Trump adequately advocates for the men and women serving in the Armed Forces.

A gift from Jack Mordente to Khizr Khan in honor of Khan’s son, Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 while deployed in Iraq.

“I don’t think so, but anything coming from me would be considered political,” said Khan. “But I must say as a parent, that this careless attitude toward deploying our men and women in harm’s way, it should not be such. It should be as our military leaders, senior military leaders, are doing. They’re making announcements, they’re not tweeting, they’re not issuing statements and threats. Because they know the cost.”

Brokk Tollefson, a senior sociology major who served four years active duty in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Afghanistan, said he didn’t think that the event would be a big deal but wanted to stop by. He said when he found out it was Khan who was speaking he decided to stay. Tollefson talked with Khan about how he had lost friends while he was in Afghanistan and said he wanted to ask him about his perspective on losing someone.

Brokk Tollefson, who served four years in the Marine Crops, took the conversation in the direction of loss and the service of veterans. 

“I feel like his experience and my experience may intersect at some point but I thought it was a very appropriate question,” said Tollefson. “Honestly, I thought that’s why he was here today too. He could have delved into some of the political stuff – maybe some stuff about our current president. But he was really here today to talk about veterans and their service and loss.”

Photo Credit: August Pelliccio

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