The number of U.S. service members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries as a result of an Iranian attack on an Iraqi airbase earlier this month has risen to 50, the Defense Department said.
Last week, the Pentagon said 34 American troops had been diagnosed with TBIs following the Jan. 3 attack, which Iran launched in retaliation for U.S. forces killing Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani.
President Donald Trump initially said zero Americans were wounded in the attack. After first reports that some Americans suffered concussion-like symptoms, Trump shrugged off the injuries as “headaches.”
“As of today, 50 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with TBI,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said in the statement first reported by CNN on Tuesday.
“Of these 50, 31 total service members were treated in Iraq and returned to duty, including 15 of the additional service members who have been diagnosed since the previous report,” Campbell said.
Eighteen U.S. troops have been transported to Germany for further evaluation and treatment and one service member who had been transported to Kuwait has since returned to duty, Campbell added.
He noted that the numbers are a “snap shot in time” and can change.
In this Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, photo, U.S. troops stand near their residence area that was destroyed by Iranian bombing at Al-Asad air base, in Anbar, Iraq.
Trump faced backlash over his comments downplaying the troops’ injuries during a news conference at the glitzy World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week.
“I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things,” Trump said when asked about varying reports on the number of injuries. “But I would say, and I can report, it is not very serious.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a concussion as a traumatic brain injury that can occur from a blow to the head. Concussions are not usually considered life-threatening, but their effects can be serious.
Pressed on whether he considers TBIs to be “serious,” Trump said he did not “relative to other injuries” he’s seen like the loss of limbs from roadside bombings.
Susan Connors, president and CEO of the Brain Injury Association of America, said in a statement to HuffPost last week that her group was “disappointed” by Trump’s remarks.
“A brain injury changes the way you move, act, think, and feel ― it has the potential to change who you are at your core,” Connors said. “What could be more serious than that?”
Veterans of Foreign Wars, a prominent veterans organization, called on Trump to apologize for his “misguided remarks.”
“TBI is a serious injury and one that cannot be taken lightly,” the group said in a statement Friday.
“The VFW expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks,” the statement continued. “And, we ask that he and the White House join with us in our efforts to educate Americans of the dangers TBI has on these heroes as they protect our great nation in these trying times.”
The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
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