On January 20, Sarah Palin, while speaking at a Trump rally in Tulsa, OK, accused President Obama of failing to provide sufficient help for US war veterans suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) — especially her son, Track Palin. He had recently been arrested for domestic abuse, as he had allegedly hit his girlfriend in the eye, kicked her in the knee, and held an assault rifle near his head during a fight. Track Palin had indeed served a year in the Army fighting in Iraq. He had enlisted in 2007.
As a soldier who saw active combat, he would have been at risk for developing PTSD, which is defined as a “mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.” Outbursts and aggressive behavior are indeed symptoms, as are difficulty concentrating and/or sleeping, emotional numbness, and hypervigilance. Sarah Palin’s comments disgusted Rex Huppke, a columnist for the “Chicago Tribune.” He called Palin a “self-serving charlatan.” While he agreed that “PTSD is something this country must address,” he also stated that it isn’t “a damn excuse for publicity seekers.”
At least one veteran agrees with Huppke. Chris Mark is a successful business owner and registered Republican. He had also served in the US Marine Corps and fought in 1993’s Operation Continue Hope, the mission in Somalia which ended in failure because the deployed US troops were both outmanned and outgunned. Disgusted by Palin’s blaming PTSD for her son’s actions, Mark wrote a blistering open letter to her. In the letter, he began by introducing himself as a veteran and Republican who has both “a Combat Action Ribbon as well as service connected disabilities.” He then talked about having friends who were also veterans and how some of them suffered from PTSD. Mark then described his reactions upon reading an account of Palin’s claims that her son’s actions were due to his having PTSD.
To put it bluntly, Mark was disgusted. He wrote:
“Based upon your previous comments I am not surprised that you would choose to use this very serious condition as a political football and, once again, attempt to divert blame from your own family’s abhorrent, violent behavior.”
Mark then described a previous brush with the law that Track Palin had had in 2014. During that incident, Track and his sister Bristol had gotten involved in a “drunken brawl.” Sarah Palin had later gone online to talk about how proud she was of her children and commented “my kids’ defense of family makes my heart soar!” Mark noted that Palin should have realized that Track had a problem and gotten him help, rather than applauding his violent behavior. He also commented that Palin had not mentioned her son’s PTSD during this incident. Mark then added:
“Maybe, instead of being the result of PTSD, your son was simply trying to uphold the stated Palin family values and ‘…make your heart soar’ by abusing a woman.”
Mark then lectured Palin about PTSD, which is poorly understood by the general public and is often stigmatized by the media. Roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day, which means nearly 8,000 veterans kill themselves every year. People who have been wounded while serving their country should not have to suffer the additional insult of being stigmatized because of someone’s ignorant comments. People’s ignorance of PTSD and its causes have led to discrimination against veterans. Finally, while Mark said he wished Palin would simply disappear, he did advise her to learn the facts about PTSD if she truly wished to embrace it as a cause.
He ended his letter by advising her that there were many veterans’ organizations to which she could donate time and money. To sum up, Mark scolded Sarah Palin for using PTSD as an excuse for her son’s behavior, especially when he’d acted violently before with no apparent repercussions. He was also angry that she’d used PTSD and its victims as a political football. PTSD is a serious condition that can result in death and needs to be treated accordingly. It should not be used to either score political points or excuse egregious behavior.