As the issue of border wall funding threatens to plunge the federal government into a partial shutdown in time for the holidays, an Air Force veteran and motivational speaker living a day’s drive from Mar-a-Lago is trying to crowdsource donations for a wall along the southern U.S. border.
In just five days, Purple Heart recipient Brian Kolfage has raised more than $7.5 million toward the wall’s funding, a key campaign promise of President Donald Trump.
Kolfage, 37, who lives with his family in the Miramar Beach resort community of Sandestin, in the Panhandle’s Walton County, aims to raise $1 billion — though Trump has demanded that Congress allocate $5 billion to fund construction of the wall.
The Senate on Wednesday defied Trump by passing a short-term spending bill to avoid a partial shutdown by Friday’s deadline. Amid public pressure from his conservative base, Trump told House GOP leaders on Thursday he would not sign the Senate-passed spending measure because it lacks wall funding, the Associated Press reports.
On his GoFundMe page, named “We The People Will Fund The Wall,” Kolfage states that if the roughly 63 million voters who elected Trump donate $80 each, they could fund the wall. More than 123,000 people have contributed. On the site, he promises contributors that “100% of your donations will go to the Trump Wall” and that he had contacted the White House to “secure a point of contact where all the funds will go upon completion.”
Two Republican lawmakers have filed legislation seeking to allow the Treasury Department to use public donations to fund the wall, according to the Washington Post. Kolfage did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Miami Herald.
In an email to the Post, Kolfage said his fundraising project was about “giving people the power.” “It’s time to stop playing games with voters,” Kolfage wrote. “If we are told we’re getting something, make it happen.”
Kolfage lost both his legs and one arm during a Sept. 11, 2004, rocket attack on Balad Air Base in Iraq during his second deployment there as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to his website. A 107mm rocket shell exploded about three feet from him, throwing Kolfage through the air and into a wall of sandbags. He lost so much blood that about 100 blood donors were transported to the camp hospital from across the base to keep him alive, according to his profile on the veteran-focused Gary Sinise Foundation website.
He was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and put in a medically induced coma for four days. After almost a year of rehabilitation, he moved to Tucson, Arizona, and later graduated from the University of Arizona’s School of Architecture in 2014.
Kolfage, a recipient of the George C. Lang Award for Courage, is a Detroit native who moved to Miramar Beach in 2016 after being gifted a home there by the Gary Sinise Foundation. He had considered other locations, including in Hawaii where he was raised, but settled on the Panhandle because of the community reception he experienced, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News.
“I’ve been a lot of places but this place by far was the most friendly to me and my family than any place I’ve ever been to. It was a no-brainer that this was the place we were going to move to,” he said to WUFW at the time.