| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Oct 3 U.S. Republican presidential
candidate Donald Trump's campaign defended comments he made on
combat veterans and mental health on Monday, after some said his
remarks implied service members diagnosed with post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) were weak.
At an event with veterans in Herndon, Virginia, Trump called
for better mental health services for those returning from
combat, saying that while many are "strong," others "can't
handle" what they have seen on the battlefield.
The response struck some as insulting to veterans struggling
with PTSD, as the Republican candidate works to motivate
traditionally conservative military voters to support him in the
Nov. 8 presidential election.
Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a Trump adviser on
military issues, said in a written statement that the
candidate's comments were taken out of context "in order to
deceive voters and veterans."
Marine Staff Sergeant Chad Robichaux, whose question at the
event prompted Trump's statement, said the critical reaction was
"sickening" and accused others of manipulating Trump's words.
"I took his comments to be thoughtful and understanding of
the struggles many veterans have," said Robichaux, an
Afghanistan combat veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD.
Trump made his remarks at an event hosted by a political
action committee called Retired American Warriors. Trump has
cast himself a champion of veterans during his campaign and in
July pledged to reform federal programs for war veterans.
He attended a military preparatory school but did not serve
in the U.S. military.
Joe Donnelly, a Democratic U.S. senator from Indiana, was
one of the first to criticize Trump's remarks.
"We need to dismiss the idea that mental health issues
signify weakness, and reinforce that there is strength in
seeking help," Donnelly said in a written statement.
PTSD was among the most talked about topics on Twitter on
Monday, as many social media users responded to Trump's
"@realDonaldTrump As a Veteran with PTSD, I'm stronger than
you could ever be," tweeted Kevin Plantz (@KevinPlantz).
"My husband served this country honorably," tweeted Melissa
Bird (@birdgirl1001). "He has #PTSD. #Trump has officially
crossed the line for me and my family."
Neither the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs nor the
campaign for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential
nominee, immediately returned requests for comment.
(Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Bill Rigby)