Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Oct. 3 that "strong" veterans can handle PTSD-related issues, but others need mental health care (video below).
Mediaite.com reports that Trump was asked during a Retired American Warriors PAC event in Herndon, Virginia if he would support religious-based programs that supposedly reduce suicide and divorce rates among veterans, restore chaplains and support "spiritual fitness" among the military troops.
Yes, I would. Look, we need that so badly. When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it.
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And they see horror stories. They see events that you couldn't see in a movie, nobody would believe it. And we need a mental health help, and medical.
The event was hosted by Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins and retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the conservative Christian organization.
In response to news reports, Trump advisor retired Lt. General Michael Flynn issued this comment through the Trump campaign:
The media continues to operate as the propaganda arm of Hillary Clinton as they took Mr. Trump’s words out of context in order to deceive voters and veterans--an appalling act that shows they are willing to go to any length to carry water for their candidate of choice.
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Mr. Trump was highlighting the challenges veterans face when returning home after serving their country. He has always respected the service and sacrifice of our military men and women--proposing reforms to Veteran Affairs to adequately address the various issues veterans face when they return home.
Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran and head of VoteVets.org, said in a statement:
These comments, as horrible as they are, are not shocking. We’re talking about a person, in Trump, who believes that POW’s aren’t real heroes, and that he’s made sacrifices akin to Gold Star Families who lost their loved ones in war. The constant disrespect Donald Trump shows towards our veterans and servicemembers is sickening, and completely and totally disqualifying.
The claim that Trump thinks "POWs aren’t real heroes" is an apparent reference to his 2015 comment about Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was a POW during the Vietnam War. "He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured," he said, according to NBC News.
Soltz also said in his statement:
Donald Trump is showing himself to be a completely toxic person, who only looks to pit groups of people against each other. Comments like these go against even the most basic training people in the military receive, to deal with mental wellness issues. These kinds of remarks only further stigmatize issues like post-traumatic stress, and discourage people from seeking the help they need. It will only exacerbate the issue of veteran and military suicides. Any commander would face serious consequences if he or she said this. For a potential Commander in Chief to say it is unthinkable.
The fact is, dealing with the mental wounds from war has nothing to do about someone’s strength. You wouldn’t say that someone can just deal with a traumatic brain injury without proper care, because he or she is "strong enough," or that an amputee doesn’t need care because he or she is "strong enough." And you certainly wouldn’t say that someone who seeks care for those things is, in any way, weak. If Donald Trump took even 3 seconds trying to understand and respect our veterans, he’d understand that.