Some veteran stories are not for the faint of heart. Julia Thompson of Balanced Veterans is a testament to how cannabis helps heal severe trauma.
Thompson was visiting from California and helping Balanced Veterans spread the good word at the Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival.
She joined the military in 2004 at age 20 and was deployed to Iraq in 2005 at the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal as an interrogator.
When she came home, the Veterans Administration (VA), which serves as a hospital network for vets, put her on strong medication immediately.
“When I got off the plane, they gave me a brown paper bag that had a barbiturate and Ambien,” Thompson said.
It was especially troublesome that her birth control was canceled out by the medication she received from the VA, which led her to have abortions.
“It was really hard. The VA doesn’t do abortion. Thank God I was in California and had Planned Parenthood,” she said. “No man is ever gonna have to kill his kid because he has PTSD and served his country in Iraq.”
Her post-deployment issues were made worse by what happened there.
“I got raped in Iraq,” Thompson said. She needed a lockable door for her tent afterward, she said.
Thompson said Military Sexual Trauma (MST) affects one-third of women and one-fifth of men. She lamented that men often do not have a support system to turn to or feel too embarrassed. Thus, they suffer in silence, like many women.
The issue of rape within the military is especially difficult to address. Because veterans cannot sue the government, they also cannot sue soldiers who work for the government. Nor can you sue the VA for malpractice.
The recent case of Vannessa Guillen, who was raped and murdered, along with another prominent case, has brought these issues to the forefront.
In many cases, little happens to those who commit rape in the military. Thompson said it was worse because soldiers in the army are taught to feel like a family. Thus, she compared it to incest.
“Nobody got reprimanded,” Thompson said regarding her own case.
Thompson said they move around problematic soldiers like the Catholic Church.
At the height of her drug dependency provided by the VA, she was on 15-20 pills a day at a young age. Thompson tried to wean herself off the drugs with others.
“The VA has always had a problem with me looking for alternative forms of healing,” Thompson said.
Thompson said 22 veterans a day commit suicide. Many of them are female. What’s worse, veteran mothers are afraid of admitting suicidal thoughts for fearing of child services taking their children away.
In despair over the situation, Thomspon tried to take her life twice.
“We don’t have a rock bottom,” she said regarding vets. “It’s like a black hole.”
Thompson said that while they might provide free college, being a soldier puts people in therapy forever.
“The reality is far from what the truth is,” she said.
Thompson said this is why many homeless vets who were taught to survive start camping outdoors in a city. They can’t see past one day because they witnessed so much death.
“I was one of those kinds of people,” she said.
That’s how cannabis came into play since prescription drugs were not helping her.
Cannabis gave Thomspon a sense of control and improvements that pills and alcohol did not.
She has been a California patient since 2008. Before that, she had only smoked once in high school. Her mother was a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and did not approve of cannabis.
However, seeing how much it has helped her, her mother has been supportive.
Balanced Veterans Helping the Needy
Balanced Veterans is a nationwide organization that has many veterans joining and supporting it.
Ron Millward founded it in Pennsylvania two years ago out of his struggle as a veteran.
“I wanted to create a community for other people to find alternative therapies,” Millward said.
Balanced Veterans is focused on Pennsylvania legalization in the lame-duck post-election session.
Millward said they are really pushing homegrow and compassionate care for underserved communities, along with veterans. He is a patient himself in PA and lives in Philly.
“It helps you be mindful about creating a healthy lifestyle all around,” Millward said regarding clinical cannabis. He said meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises help as well.
Balanced Veterans helps underserved vets who have many needs. They help veterans acquire medical marijuana cards, and massage therapy, plant growing therapy, and CBD.