In a recent speech to a veterans group, Donald Trump took on the subjects of PTSD, traumatic brain injury, the rate of suicide among vets. If I've got it correctly, he wanted his audience to understand that despite the things you might experience in war, if "you're strong, you can handle it. But," he went on, "a lot of people can't handle it."
In fairness, you might say Donald Trump has said far more hurtful and stupid things than this. But because of the veterans and veterans' families that I know, this struck a nerve. If you take what Mr. Trump said at face value, then Tomas Young, who'd been shot in the spine and endured ten years of suffering, wasn't strong, not enough to handle this. He wasn't strong because even while having the crazy courage to publicly protest the Iraq war, he was contemplating suicide, to end the pain that, toward the end, had him unable to even write his name.
Holding to Mr. Trump's logic, my friend Mike Harmon isn't strong. At one time a combat medic in Iraq, he is plagued to this day by memories of the suffering and deaths of the civilians and fellow soldiers thrust into his care. So yeah, let's add him to Trump's list of those not strong enough to handle it.
Janice Morgain, grand woman that she is, lost her National Guardsman husband in Iraq. With this loss came an abiding sense of hopelessness and panic attacks (for long months she felt a hand on her back, pushing her, when, in fact, no one was there). Most significantly, Janice feared that while in mourning, she wasn't properly caring for her children. No doubt that in Janice's mind she was quite close to coming apart. "Can't handle it," Mr Trump would say.
Aware I'm running on a bit, I'll only add one more person to this roster, a former soldier who was the sole survivor of an attack on a Humvee packed with men. This young man, who prefers that his name not be used, is struggling. While physical wounds are healing, there are memories that return, often without warning. As a way to cope, not wanting to forget his fallen friends, he's having his body tattooed (nearly head to foot) with images from that and other violent days. Donald Trump might very well say then that because this combat vet can't simply slough off or set aside these memories, he's not strong, can't handle it.