Donald Trump seemed to suggest Monday to a group of retired military supporters that veterans returning from war with post traumatic stress were not strong.
"When people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you're strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can't handle it," he said.
Trump's statement came during questions about veterans and suicide and the care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs during the Retired American Warriors conference in Herndon, Virginia.
It prompted a quick response on social media and a statement from Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran and the chairman of VoteVets.org.
"These comments, as horrible as they are, are not shocking," he said. "We're talking about a person, in Trump, who believes that POWs aren't real heroes, and that he's made sacrifices akin to Gold Star Families who lost their loved ones in war. The constant disrespect Donald Trump shows towards our veterans and service members is sickening, and completely and totally disqualifying."
But one of Trump's advisers, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, said Trump's words had been taken out of context.
"Mr. Trump was highlighting the challenges veterans face when returning home after serving their country," Flynn said. "He has always respected the service and sacrifice of our military men and women—proposing reforms to Veteran Affairs to adequately address the various issues veterans face when they return home."
And the veteran who asked the question, former Marine Staff Sgt. Chad Robichaux, also defended Trump.
"I think it's sickening that anyone would twist Mr. Trump's comments to me in order to pursue a political agenda," said Robichaux, president and founder of Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs. "I took his comments to be thoughtful and understanding of the struggles many veterans have, and I believe he is committed to helping them."
Also on Monday, Trump repeated his position that veterans also be allowed to seek government-funded private care. He said that the country's military was "depleted" and he vowed to expand it. And he said that under his administration, cybersecurity would be an immediate and top priority, and he criticized his opponent for putting the country in harm's way with her use of a private email server.
Hillary Clinton's only experience in cybersecurity was her "criminal" attempt to keep hidden her emails exchanged while she was secretary of state, Trump said, speaking to a veterans group in Virginia.
Clinton was criticized by the FBI director for her use of a private server but he did not recommend prosecuting her.
Trump warned against attacks by potential hackers from China, Russia and North Korea.
"Cybersecurity is just one more area where the Obama administration has failed," he said.
Trump called cyber attacks the warfare of the future and said the United States' dominance must be unquestioned. As president he would instruct the Department of Justice to create a joint task force to crush the still developing area of crime, he said.
When he was asked for his plan to defeat ISIS or the Islamic State, he criticized President Obama for refusing to say radical Islamic terrorism and said he would stop ISIS cold, but did not specify how.
Obama has said the debate over what words are used to describe ISIS and other extremists is a manufactured issue.