Los Angeles, Aug 7: Voicing support for a fallen Pakistani-origin American soldier's parents who had come under attack from Donald Trump, the family of a slain Sikh Marine has said they were "hurt" by his remarks and it amounted to playing "political games".
Five years after he was shot to death by enemy fighters in Afghanistan, Marine Cpl. Gurpreet Singh's bedroom is still decorated in red, white and blue and his dress uniform hangs in his closet with medals pinned to it.
His father, Nirmal Singh, keeps a poster on a wall in his home in Antelope, California, calling the corporal an American hero. Singh and his family have spent much of the past week watching the immigrant parents of another fallen military service member spar with Republican presidential candidate Trump.
"It hurts. I don't know why. It's like they're playing political games with a Gold Star family," Nirmal told The Sacramento Bee.
Gold Star families are immediate relatives of US Armed Forces members who died in battle or in support of certain military activities.
Many military families around the country have been surprised by Trump's criticism of the parents of the late Army Captain Humayun Khan after they endorsed Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and rebuked the Republican presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last month.
Trump's tactics drew condemnation from leaders of the groups Veterans of Foreign Wars and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Gold Star Wives and the grief-counselling nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) also stepped in to criticise the business tycoon.
The Singhs identify with the Khans, a Muslim family of Pakistani descent, who like them lost a proud son to their adopted nation's long wars. Nirmal Singh noted that he has often met other immigrants when he gets in touch with Marines.
"Religion does not matter. They love their country. That's why they go and they should be respected," Nirmal said.
Unlike Trump, the Singhs did not question why Captain Khan's mother stood silent at the convention next to her husband, Khizr. Cpl. Gurpreet Singh's mother, Satnam Kaur, likely would do the same.
"When (Trump) said something about (Capt. Khan's) mother, that insulted my mother," Cpl. Singh's 28-year-old sister, Manpreet Kaur, was quoted as saying. However, the election has also resulted in military families turning against each other.
"It's like they're trying to divide even Gold Star families. We should be united," Manpreet said.