Trump’s remarks irk some veterans
Veterans advocates bristle over his comments on military service and the Borderline shooter’s mental state.
WASHINGTON — President Trump described the ex-Marine in the Thousand Oaks massacre as a “very sick guy” on Friday, and suggested without evidence not only that he had post-traumatic stress disorder but that combat veterans generally return with mental health issues.
“He was a war veteran. He was a Marine. He was in the war. He served time,” Trump said of Ian David Long, who killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill on Wednesday night. “He saw some pretty bad things. And a lot of people say he had the PTSD. And that’s a tough deal.”
The president, speaking to reporters at the White House as he departed for a weekend trip to France, then went further, reinforcing a stereotype long challenged by advocacy groups: that all combat veterans come home from war suffering from mental health issues.
“People come back. That’s why it’s a horrible thing,” Trump said. “They come back, and they’re never the same.”
Long, a 28-year-old from Newbury Park who opened fire in the crowded bar before possibly turning the gun on himself, was deployed for seven months to Afghanistan in 2010 and discharged in 2013.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has said Long had never enrolled in its healthcare system, and no evidence has emerged that he sought treatment for or had PTSD.
However, acquaintances have said that Long seemed to struggle with mental health issues after his return from military service.
In April, a mental health specialist met with Long after authorities responded to a disturbance at the home where he lived with his mother, but found no grounds to commit him involuntarily.
Veterans advocates and mental health professionals were left shaking their heads at Trump’s comments.
“Comments like this one from our commander in chief are extremely unhelpful,” Paul Rieckhoff, cofounder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, wrote in an email. “They perpetuate a false and damaging narrative that veterans are broken and dangerous.
“Most people who suffer from PTSD, when able to access effective treatment, are able to live healthy, happy, meaningful lives,” Rieckhoff wrote.
IAN DAVID LONG, 28, spent seven months in Afghanistan as a Marine.