- Trump was in Jacksonville on Wednesday
- He said he met with Gold Star families
Trump's meeting with Gold Star families before his rally on Wednesday came as the Republican presidential nominee looks to push past the backlash he drew in recent days from veterans groups and prominent members of his own party after he criticized another Gold Star family, the parents of a Muslim US soldier slain in Iraq who criticized Trump at the Democratic convention.
"I just visited with some incredible folks ... Some really amazing Gold Star families," Trump said as he searched for the families in the crowd. "The love in that room was incredible."
The meeting was organized by Karen Vaughn, the mother of a fallen U.S. Navy SEAL who supports Trump and spoke at the Republican National Convention, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a Trump supporter and adviser, also attended, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed.
"It was really a chance to tell our stories, but also talk about problems with the rules of engagement (for troops in war zones) and the failed policies of the current administration," Vaughn told Military Times
. "I walked out feeling like I understood where his heart is, regardless of the comments that he made that may seem insensitive to some."
Trump also claimed on stage that one of the family members handed him a campaign contribution in the form of a check.
"He said: 'It's more money than we can afford, but I want you to have it for your campaign,' " Trump said.
Trump faced widespread criticism in recent days from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, other veterans groups and fellow Republicans for disparaging the parents of Humayun Khan, a US Army captain who was killed in 2004.
His father, Khizr Khan, denounced Trump during the Democratic National Convention for his proposal to ban Muslims from the U.S. and questioned whether Trump had read the U.S. Constitution.
Trump fired back saying Khan had "no right" to "viciously" criticize him and implied that Khan's wife was forced to stay silent during the speech because she is Muslim.