Yesterday, Donald Trump spoke to a group of veterans in Herndon, Virginia, the town right next door to my own (NoVA). Trump sat in a round table style with veterans from the Retired American Warriors PAC, and discussed topics like cyber security and military suicide rates. Specifically, 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.”
The media have instantly flocked to Trump’s comment, implying that Trump meant that our veterans are not strong enough to handle the battles that they have gone through and seen overseas. Where I do see how many folks could take offense to this comment after evaluating and analyzing it myself several times, I’ve found that this comment is one of the least controversial comments Trump has said recently, and was misinterpreted.
I think Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, one of Trump’s advisers, does a better job of capturing what Trump’s main point of the comment was. According to CNN, he said in a statement, “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.” Yes, Trump could have rephrased the statement by more clearly pointing out the strong effect mental illness, namely PTSD in relation to suicide, has on our veterans. But, the media has completely blown this comment, of Trump’s many, out of proportion.
Again, I can see where many veterans would say that this type of comment continues the stigma surrounding PTSD and suicide; however, there’s a different way to frame it, and it’s not the story the media wants to tell. One veteran in the group, Staff Sgt. Chad Robichaux, was actually offended that anyone, especially the media, would take Trump’s comment offensively. Sgt. Robichaux wanted to know if Trump would promote and advocate for religious groups helping veterans who were suffering from traumas associated with war. He said in a statement, “I think it’s sickening that anyone would twist Mr. Trump’s comments to me in order to pursue a political agenda.”
If the person asking the question understood what Trump meant, then why does the media continue spinning this story? Since the first presidential debate was over a week ago, the media must set another agenda, and this town hall style event was perfect for the taking.