Why I Medicate: A Veteran's Tale

Another day in the life of...

It's the middle of summer in the Iraq desert. Today, not even the flies want to be out of the shade as the sun's unforgiving rays pound the landscape. 19 sets of eyes scan the ridge lines, the roof and corners of every house, and the blank faces that stare as we pass. Cries of "mister" and "chocolate" from the children break the monotony of diesel rumblings.

You develop a sixth sense when you've explored a single area for months on end. Potholes tell of explosions, a new boulder may reveal the weapons and explosive cache underneath, and the soda can on the road rarely traveled tells of the wire, blasting cap, and pressure plate it rests on. Sometimes, it's a cell phone passed quickly between two men.

"White 1, White 2: Moving to intercept two males on the rooftop," the radio crackles as our lead scout makes a turn onto a wide dirt road with a long wall on one side and an open field on the other.


Puffs of dirt shoot up quickly from underneath our trucks and the two males slide off the rooftop as our engines roar to life. The senses enter overdrive when the hunt is on but this time… confusion is airing on the radio. Dirt puffs are small enough to mean no IED explosion but big enough to mean something is under the road.

The two males shed light on a familiar story.

Daisy Chain.

It could have been the last

Daisy chained IEDs are an erupting volcano of shrapnel and death that have taken many soldier's lives. Fortunately for my platoon these individuals attached the blasting caps to the ordinance incorrectly. After EOD arrived and finished the insurgent's job the road was now a canyon; impassable, unrecognizable, another stab at our lives avoided.

Explosions were easy.

Any second, a sniper's round or an underground reaper waiting for the right chance could snatch a life away. Every man and woman accepted this to their core and relied on training and instincts to say, "Not today."

In the chow hall afterwards, my squad and I sat there, looking at each other silently, our food untouched. Around us, laughter and conversation filled the room. Yet, we heard none of it. Unspoken were the words but felt was the meaning. Today was a new lease on a life that could have ended hours prior.

Twice more, my squad would have moments like this at the chow table.

Explosions were the easy part… The physical and mental aftermath, the hardest.

Relief in a flower

Returning from deployment, it seemed as if there would be no recovery from the injuries that wracked my body on a daily basis. It wasn't until I entered the medical marijuana industry that I found the solution I had been seeking. The next entries will explore that journey as well as the stories of other veterans who found relief in marijuana.

This is the first entry into an ongoing series exploring the trials through military service, combat, returning home, PTSD, and marijuana's benefits toward veterans living healthy lives after service. In the next entry, I'll explore the journey through the military medical system, it's views towards chronic injuries, and how discovering marijuana gave relief where there was none.