Op-ed: Donald Trump, who never saw a shot fired in anger, now thinks he knows more about PTSD than generals.
He scorned its victims in a speech in Herndon, Va., on Monday.
Trump said: "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," he said.
Many hoped Trump had been misunderstood or taken out of context, such as David Maulsby, the executive director of the Texas-based PTSD Foundation of America. He told Associated Press first news accounts were largely correct.
"At the very least, it's a very poor choice of words. PTSD is basically a rewiring of the brain as the result of trauma or prolonged trauma. That is not a reflection of a person's strength, character, stamina — any of that," Maulsby said.
"Our veterans who are struggling with post-traumatic stress as a result of their combat need to be encouraged to seek help, and not be told they are weak or deficient in character in any way, shape or form," he said.
But the criticism Trump has received doesn’t even come close to what he deserves.
As someone who suffered PTSD and had to go on Social Security Disability I can tell you it hits reporters, like me, police officers, firefighters and other first responders. And of course the victims of massacres and other violent incidents like Columbine High School, which I covered.
It was not my first such story.
Using Trump’s standards I guess I am one of the strong because I did not commit suicide. I became a walking test tube for anti-depressants and other drugs and my family’s finances were destroyed.
The irony was I was covering PTSD for Associated Press, among the first reporters to study its effect, in this century, though it had been studied before. The U.S. Army knew of the effects of repeatedly exposing troops to violence during World War 2 and knew it could lead to soldiers becoming psychotic.
Officers were told to watch for soldiers near “their breaking points.”
And yet in this century, more than 60 years later, reports of PTSD initially were greeted by officers calling victims “malingerers.” I saw this first hand at Fort Carson in Colorado and heard about its in dozens of interviews.
Trump is the last person to judge these people. Even flying in a helicopter frequently could cause PTSD, without ever deploying in a combat zone.
The late British war historian, Sir John Keegan, wrote in “The Face of Battle” that war was making itself useless because humans had evolved beyond it.
British historian John Keegan, in “The Face of Battle,” writes that evolution has made “the fitness of modern man to sustain the stress of battle increasingly doubtful.”
There is no doubt some warriors can handle the stress, Keegan wrote.
But doctors now know that “psychiatric casualties at every stage of the war formed a significant percentage of all battle casualties...”
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Worked in journalism, including on the Internet, for more than 40 years. Started as a news editor at the Colorado Daily at the University of Colorado, joined a small Montana newspaper, the Helena Independent-Record, and then United Press International.
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