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Story highlights

A Trump spokeswoman said the billionaire was referring to Iraqi soldiers, not U.S. soldiers

The comments drew sharp rebuke online from a man who said he was involved in doling out recovery funds

(CNN) —  

Donald Trump implied some soldiers in Iraq stole recovery funds delivered to the country in the wake of the Iraq War, during a speech Tuesday night in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“Iraq, crooked as hell. How about bringing baskets of money? Millions and millions of dollars and handing it out? I want to know, who are the soldiers that had that job because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they may be,” he said.

His spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said Trump was referring to Iraqi soldiers, not U.S. soldiers.

However, billions of recovery funds were reportedly unaccounted for in the wake of the war and could have gone into any number of places. According to the Center for Public Integrity, 115 U.S. soldiers were convicted of committing theft or bribery in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2005 and 2015.

The comments drew sharp rebuke online from a man who said he was involved in doling out recovery funds with the U.S. Army, who laid out his emotional connection to the subject in a series of tweets Wednesday.

“My job for a whole year was to assess damage to Iraqi citizen’s property, and person and compensate them monetarily,” wrote Corbin Reiff, a freelance music writer published in Rolling Stone, AV Club and others, of his deployment in Iraq in 2009.

“I basically spent a year of my life in an aluminum trailer, away from my friends and family enduring mortar attacks nearly every night,” he continued. “I had to look widows and orphans in the eye as tears ran down their cheeks telling me through an interpreter their heartbreaking stories.”

And Reiff said the implication of impropriety from Trump was insulting.

“I am living well right now - some student loan debt aside - but not because I pocketed the hard-earned taxpayer money that I was entrusted,” he tweeted. “The idea that Trump would call out the integrity of those who answered the call of service and deployed to a war zone is repellant.”

CNN verified a record of his service as a sergeant in the U.S. Army with Reiff.

The presumptive GOP nominee made some similar remarks in September in Keene, New Hampshire, about Afghan soldiers.

“Remember when they were handing $50 million of cash? They were going through Afghanistan paying off – I want to know, who are the soldiers that are carrying cash, $50 million, cash?” he said then. “How stupid are we? I wouldn’t be surprised – if those soldiers, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cash didn’t get there.”

CNN’s Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.