Leader of New York Veterans Group Defends Donald Trump

Vincent McGowan, a veteran, says Trump “has not been a bad guy to us."

ByABC News
July 20, 2015, 1:31 PM

— -- With all the fire coming at Donald Trump since his comments this weekend against Sen. John McCain – one of the leaders of New York’s Vietnam Veterans Plaza tells ABC News Trump “has not been a bad guy to us.”

Vincent McGowan, who has been with the organization since its inception in 1983 and currently sits on its board, says that if it wasn’t for Trump, the project in lower Manhattan would have never happened.

McGowan says the property downtown was gifted to the veterans by the Koch administration but they had no money. Trump committed $1M in a matching fund and they “couldn’t have built it without him.”

Trump Saturday suggested McCain, who was beaten and tortured as he was held captive as a POW in Vietnam for 5 ½ years, was only a war hero "because he was captured."

"He's a war hero because he was captured," Trump said the Family Leadership Council summit in Iowa. "I like people who weren’t captured."

On Sunday, Trump told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on This Week that he was not backing down nor would he apologize to McCain, who Trump says has done nothing for veterans.

“I've been going around to the campaign trail. They're treated like third-class citizens. He's done nothing to help the vets,” Trump told Raddatz. “And I will tell you, they are living in hell.”

In a USA Today op-ed published Sunday evening, Trump said his “record of veteran support is well-documented. I served as co-chairman of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission and was responsible, with a small group, for getting it built.”

McGowan confirmed his organization has turned to Trump several times over the years. In 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII, the group asked for the Donald’s support for their parade. Trump gave the group $175,000 and allowed organizers to use his helicopter to get around the different parts of the city quickly. “He’s like a guy from the corner who made out well,” says McGowan who added the organization honored Trump in 2005 as their Friend of the Year.

McGowan recalled a particular experience a few years back, a staff sergeant had just retired after 10 years of service, wanted to see New York but was down on his luck. McGowan called Trump who gave the veteran a tour of Trump Tower, took him for lunch and then handed him a check for $10,000 to jump start his education.

“When we need help, really at the bottom of the barrel, I don’t know where we would be without him,” said McGowan who still calls Trump whenever he needs him and looks forward to his annual Christmas card from the Donald. McGowan declined to say whether he was inclined to vote for Trump or whether he was supporting someone else at this time.