U.S. military veterans are rallying outside Trump Tower in New York City after Donald Trump seemed to suggest that veterans returning from war with post traumatic stress disorder are not as strong as others.
A small group of veterans turned out early Tuesday morning at the Fifth Avenue tower where the Republican presidential candidate has a residence and office. They started by sharing their personal stories of being wounded in combat, suffering from nightmares and losing battle colleagues to suicide.
Stressing the importance of treatment, some held signs that read: #VETS AGAINST TRUMP; one held a banner that read: Sacrifice is NOT weakness.
Trump made the controversial comments about PTSD while speaking to a group of retired military supporters during the Retired American Warriors conference in Herndon, Virginia, on Monday.
"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.
Trump's statement came during questions about veterans and suicide and the care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It prompted a quick response on social media and a statement from Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran and the chairman of VoteVets.org.
"These comments, as horrible as they are, are not shocking," he said. "We're talking about a person, in Trump, who believes that POWs 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 service members is sickening, and completely and totally disqualifying."
Hillary Clinton's campaign said in a statement: "It’s no surprise that someone who attacked a Gold Star family, who insulted prisoners of war, and who dismissed the impact of IED attacks on soldiers in armored vehicles would diminish the suffering some veterans face after serving our country."
But one of Trump's advisers, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, said Trump's words had been taken out of context.
"Mr. Trump was highlighting the challenges veterans face when returning home after serving their country," Flynn said. "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."
And the veteran who asked the question, former Marine Staff Sgt. Chad Robichaux, also defended Trump.
"I think it's sickening that anyone would twist Mr. Trump's comments to me in order to pursue a political agenda," said Robichaux, president and founder of Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs. "I took his comments to be thoughtful and understanding of the struggles many veterans have, and I believe he is committed to helping them."