—WATERVILLE VALLEY, N.H. -- In a small town at the base of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, in front of a relatively small crowd, Donald Trump shared some unusually personal stories at a rally Tuesday night.
While the billionaire is accustomed to delivering speeches to thousands of screaming supporters, he decided to take questions from the crowd of roughly 900 who braved freezing temperatures and icy roads on Tuesday night. The first: what made the successful businessman decide to run for president?
Trump turned reflective as he mentioned the Vietnam War. “I love the country. I’ve seen what it can do,” he said. “I didn’t serve. I haven’t served. And frankly I had deferments because of college, like a lot of people did…I always felt a little bit guilty.” He also cited a high draft number and “a foot thing” for not being drafted.
That guilt continued to gnaw at him, he said, prompting him to donate money to build the Vietnam Veterans Plaza in New York, “as a way of making up,” and eventually to run for president. Trump contributed $1 million in matching funds to build the memorial in 1983.
The mogul also doled out some parenting advice, telling a young man to keep his future kids away from drugs and alcohol.
“I had a friend who went to the Wharton School of Finance with me,” Trump explained, recalling his friend’s attempts to develop a taste for fine Scotch. He “became a massive alcoholic,” Trump continued. “Developed the taste all right. Lost his family. Lost his home. Brilliant guy lost everything because of alcohol."
Trump told the New Hampshire crowd that he abstains from drinking, and that his children, for the most part, do as well. In what Trump has called a defining moment, his brother died from alcoholism over three decades ago.
The night wasn’t all warm and fuzzy. Trump devoted much of his remarks to terrorism, reiterating his claim that recent attacks in Paris could have been prevented with looser gun laws.
Holding his fingers in the shape of a pistol, the candidate described the scene as a grisly series of executions by ISIS.
“Move over, boom. Move over, boom,” he repeated. “Nobody could protect themselves.” He asked a man in the crowd to stand up.
“If that guy happens to be in the crowd, and if he had a gun,” Trump suggested, “they would have had a couple of killings. But they wouldn’t have been the good guys -- they would have been the bad guys.”
Trump continued to stand by his claims that he saw American Muslims celebrating in the streets of New Jersey on September 11, 2001, despite an absence of video footage to support his recollections.
“I took a lot of heat from the press when I said we have to be vigilant with the mosques,” Trump told the enthusiastic crowd. “We have to be very vigilant. Something really dangerous is going on.”
Naval veteran David Marsters told ABC News he will definitely vote for Trump.
“He says things like I say them,” Marsters said. “He’s the greatest.”