Sarah Palin’s attempt at politicizing PTSD is not sitting well with some veterans and veterans’ advocates.
While speaking to a gathering of Donald Trump supporters on Wednesday, the former Alaska governor addressed her son Track Palin’s recent arrest on domestic violence charges, suggesting it could be related to posttraumatic stress disorder from serving in Iraq and linking it to what she called President Obama’s lack of respect of war veterans.
“My son, a combat veteran … was fighting for you all, America, in the war zone. My son, like so many others, came back a bit different, they come back hardened,” she said in Tulsa, Okla.
“They come back wondering if there is that respect for what it is that their fellow soldiers and airman and every other member of the military so sacrificially have given to this country,” Palin added. “And that starts from the top. … That comes from our own president. Where they have to look at him and wonder, ‘Do you know what we go through? Do you know what we’re trying to do to secure America?’”
Her remarks brought a backlash on social media.
“It’s clear her son beats women. Less clear it’s related to combat PTSD,” tweeted Brandon Friedman, the former digital media director for the Department of Veterans Affairs. “If battering his girlfriend and his reported suicide threat are related to PTSD, then it’s probably not helpful to use as a campaign prop.”
I absolutely hate that PTSD is trending because Sarah Palin blamed it for her son’s violent assault on his girlfriend.— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC)January 20, 2016
Track Palin, 26, enlisted and spent 2008, the final year of George W. Bush’s presidency, deployed in Iraq with the Army’s Alaska-based 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
He was arrested late Monday at the Palins’ home in Wasilla, Alaska, and charged with assault, interference with the reporting of a domestic violence crime and possession of a firearm while intoxicated after his girlfriend told police he punched and kicked her before threatening to kill himself with an AR-15 rifle.
David Maulsby, executive director of the nonprofit PTSD Foundation of America, told Yahoo News that he couldn’t address Track Palin’s alleged crime because he doesn’t know the particulars.
“Generally speaking, however, it is our experience that PTSD lends to the 22 veteran suicides a day, not homicides or other acts of violence,” Maulsby said in an email. “PTSD in our vets is leading to a feeling of ‘I’m not worthy’ and isolation. While anyone with PTSD can commit an act of violence, we believe it not a result of PTSD, in general.”
Sarah Palin told the crowd that through her son’s experiences, “I can certainly relate with other families who kind of feel these ramifications of PTSD and some of the woundedness that our soldiers do return with.”
“And it makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America’s finest that we’ll have that commander in chief who will respect them and honor them,” she said.
Some war veterans, like Twitter user @CombatCavScout, took Palin’s remarks to be an excuse for her son’s actions.
He could very well have PTSD. Don’t discount that possibility. BUT IT IN NO WAY EXCUSES INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE. Period, full stop.— Fetch Me My Bayonet! (@CombatCavScout)January 21, 2016
Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), told NBC News that he hopes PTSD doesn’t become a “political chew toy in a political campaign.”
“This is a great opportunity for Sarah Palin to sound the alarm about PTSD,” he said. “Now that she has endorsed Mr. Trump, I would encourage her to talk with him about it. Mr. Trump’s campaign is pretty light on specifics about what he would do for veterans.”
She’s got millions of dollars & a lot of free time, so Obama is not the one to blame for ignoring her son’s problem. https://t.co/6MuWijixp7— Col. Morris Davis (@ColMorrisDavis)January 21, 2016
Trump told CNN’s Don Lemmon Wednesday night that it was his call for Palin to publicly question Obama’s support of veterans’ care.
“I thought it was good for many other sons and daughters coming back from the Middle East where they have traumatic problems, and I suggested it,” Trump said.
Maulby, whose group mentors combat veterans and their families with posttraumatic stress, said he hoped this week’s controversy at least leads to a deeper discussion of the issue.
“The PTSD Foundation does not believe government has or ever will have an effective answer to the veteran PTSD pandemic,” Maulby said. “It would, however, be helpful if the candidates for President of the United States gave more than lip-service to the VA scandals and show enough respect to propose a plan for dealing with our 22 veteran suicides per day.”