Veterans group demands apology from Trump over comments on brain injuries

A prominent veterans advocacy group is asking President Trump for an apology over his remarks on injuries suffered by U.S. troops stationed at a military base in Iraq that was hit by Iranian airstrikes earlier this month.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) said Trump “minimized” the injuries the troops suffered after the Pentagon announced that dozens of U.S. troops suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Trump had referred to the injuries as “headaches” and “not very serious” earlier in the week. 

“In light of today’s announcement from the defense department that 34 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of Iran’s retaliatory strike and President Trump’s remarks which minimized these troops’ injuries, the Veterans of Foreign Wars cannot stand idle on this matter,” VFW National Commander William “Doc” Schmitz said in a statement

“TBI is a serious injury and one that cannot be taken lightly. TBI is known to cause depression, memory loss, severe headaches, dizziness and fatigue — all injuries that come with both short- and long-term effects. The VFW expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks.” 

The Pentagon said Friday that 34 service members stationed in Iraq suffered the TBIs after a retaliatory missile strike from Iran in response to the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Tehran’s top general. 

Half of the service members identified have returned to active duty. The other 17 are under medical observation in Germany and the United States, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters at the Pentagon. 

Trump had initially said no service members had been injured. He later said that he “heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report that it’s not very serious”

“I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen,” he added.

Traumatic brain injuries can range from a light concussion to more severe injuries that include headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, restlessness and nausea. The 34 service members were diagnosed by a medical professional over the last several weeks.

“A lot of these symptoms, they are late developing, they manifest over a period of time, people, in some cases, their condition will improve and what we saw is a number of people who were initially screened for concussion-like symptoms … saw their conditions improve rapidly and then others we saw their conditions didn’t improve. Some got worse and some had severe enough symptoms that they were transported on for further treatment,” Hoffman said.

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