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Track Palin and PTSD: Why it Should Not be Used in Stupid Political Games

What I want to speak about is the gross negligence in the treatment of Sarah Palin's son’s PTSD.

Don Zuzula

I’d like to talk about Sarah Palin for a moment if I can get a word in edgewise in this heated conversation. I don’t want to speak about her incoherent speech or her endorsement of Donald Trump, I couldn’t care less about ridiculous the click-baity random sound-bite generator that is the primaries. What I want to speak about is something that may possibly be the worst thing that she’s done to date that people aren’t talking about. The gross negligence in the treatment of her son’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Apparently, on Wednesday, when his mother was on stage incoherently endorsing the billionaire presidential candidate, her son Track Palin was drunkenly marching around his home in Alaska, after terrorizing and assaulting his girlfriend, and threatening suicide with a rifle. He was arrested, deservingly so. What was deplorable in this instance is that Governor Palin used her son’s violent outburst, which is a cry for help from a tormented young man who needs a caring and loving hand to help him through his difficulties, and she turned it instead into a misdirected political jab at the president.

I know a lot about PTSD. I have it. I receive care for it through the Department of Veterans Affairs, I spent 8 long and agonizing years behaving similarly to Track Palin before I reached out for help, though I never performed an act so deplorable as bullying and striking the woman that I love, I have what he has. I can understand where his mind was at the time he did that. You have vivid nightmares, flashbacks of painful events, get no sleep and seemingly no one understands what you’re going through so you internalize your struggle and try to push through on your own. Alcohol helps, to a point, but then once you’ve had enough of it you hit the tipping point where your inhibitions are shed. This was the worst for my loved ones and friends because that’s when you start talking about it, one minute you’re actually fun and relaxed and the next you’re telling your wife a story about picking up body parts on your FOB after a car bomb hit a gate in the green zone. I feel for Track Palin, and I want him as my military brother to get help. No one should have to live their lives so cold and lonely as you are with PTSD. If you get a chance, Andrew Chambers did a fantastic talk for a TEDx event that brings me to tears for its honesty and accuracy in its description, all I’ll say about it is “but for the flip of a coin, go I”.

I understand his mind frame, but the violence is a different animal. I know dozens of vets with PTSD who have never hurt or threatened anyone. PTSD does cause anger and frustration, but how you channel those emotions is a learned behavior. Looking at the Palin Family’s headlines, you can see that the violence is something that he grew up with. It wasn’t so long ago that the Palin family was making headlines for a front yard brawl, and the violent and angry rhetoric that spews from Sarah during interviews and speeches would lead one to believe that there is a familial value placed on violence. In her own words “the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull: lipstick”. PTSD doesn’t cause violence in people, but if it’s inherent in your demeanor alcohol can amplify it in a heartbeat. This isn’t news though.

The deplorable act that was committed was blaming the President solely for the act that her son performed that landed him in legal trouble. It is a fact that President Obama ushered in a historic change to its rules for compensation and pensions that now includes expanded care for PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, allowing the Veterans Adinistration to provide compensation for those injuries, as they weren’t eligible prior to this act. He’s also created policies that have shrunk the VA backlog from over 600,000 in March of 2013 to just 78,000 today. In my mind, it’s still unacceptable to have any backlog, but it’s a tremendous accomplishment to have given care to half a million vets since the problem came to light. You also have to take into consideration the current backlog includes new claims coming in daily, which take over 90 days to process. President Obama has, without a doubt, done more for veterans with PTSD than any other President in recent history.

The backlog is not the real injustice to Track Palin though. The real injustice is that Sarah pushing the blame on someone else doesn’t help to encourage her son to get help, it just gives him something else to be angry at, and preventing him from accountability and getting help.

It’s not even remotely accurate to blame PTSD on the President. He didn’t start the war, he didn’t force people to join the all-volunteer Army that we have now, and he has slowly worked to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been one of his harshest critics on the last point, having wanted an end to these wars when he promised in 2008. I’m far from an Obama loving liberal, and have been vocal about my disdain for certain parts of his Presidency. I am also not a hawkish conservative who desires to tear him down at any cost, especially not in the face of facts. I refuse to be complicit in spreading misinformation, and I believe that credit is due to him for his efforts on improving the VA. It still sucks, but it sucks a lot less than it did when I started going there several years ago.

The main point is this: Track Palin needs help, like many other veterans. What he doesn’t need though is to be used as a political pawn the way that so many other veterans are.

If he wanted the help, he could have the best care in the world. His parents are millionaires, and no treatment imaginable would be out of their reach. He hasn’t gotten that treatment because he’s afraid of the VA, he’s afraid of the system failing him the way that everyone tells him that it will, and he’s afraid of seeming like a weak welfare recipient through the VA’s system that his mother rails against in political arguments and in her books.

It’s deplorable to treat your son that way. Just like many other veterans, he’s a victim of the entire political system the way that it stands. He’s a victim of the media, and he’s a victim of a war that has taken the youth and innocence of many young men and women who have answered the call to honorably serve their country, and he’s a victim of politicians who want to talk about helping veterans but refuse to work together long enough to actually make the reforms they claim are needed.

Don Zuzula is a combat veteran, graphic artist and songwriter/guitarist for Michigan's own Folk Punk group The Tosspints.

Graphic of Track Palin and ex-wife by Bad Subjects, from a photo on

Copyright © Don Zuzula. All rights reserved.