Veterans Day is one of those holidays that doesn’t get as much attention as other holidays. It’s not a commercial holiday, and there are no cute cards. No one thinks of the gifts we are given this day. But Veterans Day is all about gifts. The gift of Freedom, the gift of Protection, the gift of Life. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, & Marines have given us a gift with their service. They step up and do the hard jobs, fight the fights, and defend our nation and its people with a sacrifice that can include their very lives.
Veterans Day: Honor the brave
As a nation, we need to honor these men and women by taking care of those that have come back from the battlefield, and honor those that never got to see home again.
This Veterans Day, HERB wants to honor those that have fought our fights and found healing through cannabis, so we can raise awareness that all Veterans need cannabis as medicine.
A Sailor’s Story
Joseph Elrod grew up in the small West Texas town of Odessa. An oilfield town, it was a hard place to grow up, and like many of his peers, he chose the military as a way to see the world and try to build a life. Joe joined the Navy, as so many other had before him.
He attended boot camp in the Great Lakes, served in Groton, Connecticut, Norfolk, Virginia and saw the world.
During my tenure in the Navy, I was a high pressure pipe & plate welder, as well as firefighter, overseeing and helping weld on nuclear piping as well as hulls of submarines. It was a lot of work, but I helped keep our guys afloat, and our ships running.
Joe received two Navy Marine core achievement medals, and numerous citations for exemplary professionalism & service.
I was on the USS Theodore Rosevelt, and shipped to the Middle East, Turkey, Spain Greece, Italy, Dubai, Bahrain, Japan, Malaysia, and Okinawa. I gave 12 years of my life to this country, from 2001 to 2012.
In February of 2012, my service ended, due to downsizing, and I tried to go back to being a civilian and build my life with my family.
A life changing event
Only a few months later, in April of 2012, Joe’s life came to an abrupt halt. After an argument with his wife, he went to sleep on the couch. He didn’t wake up until June. While he slept, two bullets ripped through his skull, one from underneath his jaw, and another from the top of his head going down.
The bullets shattered half my jaw, broke every bone in my face, one bullet went through the center line of my brain, the other went out my left eye. A metal dental partial reflected the second bullet, saving my life. The rounds were hollow points, I know, because the police told me the shots had come from my own gun.
When he awoke, his entire world had changed. His family hovered over him in tears, sure that he was going to die.
The person who actually fired the shots has never been identified or arrested, but when he came out of his coma, the police only compounded the tragedy.
The damage was so extensive, initially, it appeared to be one shot, and he was accused of attempting suicide.
The deepest injury
While Joe was in a coma, his wife left him, sold his vehicle, tried to cash in his life insurance policy, and moved into a boyfriend’s place, taking Joe’s son with her.
She told their son that Joe was dead. The police were trying to blame him for attempting suicide. But eventually, the doctors managed to piece together what actually happened, as they also tried to put Joe back together.
As of today, I have had 14 surgeries, transplanting bone into my face with four bone grafts, five skin grafts, and numerous complications as well as refining to get me where I am today, but it is a long way from where I was before all this.
Struggling with VA care and addiction
They had me heavily medicated on morphine and Oxy when I got out fo the hospital, and they kept me on it for over two years at a very high dose. I got hooked on it.
I was prescribed 30mg of oxy three times a day, and 90mg of morphine three times a day. During my heaviest abuses, I wouldnt’ mix them, but I was using 200mg or more of oxy, and morphine over 500mg, crushed up and eaten.
My body became so tolerant, that when I had follow on surgery, none of the pain meds worked. They had to give me seven shots of Dilaudid just to take the edge off the worst of the pain. I became virtually immune to the effects of opiates.
Healing through cannabis
I had a friend I met from working in Pennsylvania that gave me some marijuana to try and help me. It curbed my pain, helped me cope with the cravings to take pills and opiates.
Now, I use cannabis for multiple symptoms, and it helps with my PTSD, as well as depression, and also helps distract me from the chronic pain, as well as make the pain more tolerable.
When I was using opiates, I had a lot of family problems. My head wasn’t clear, and the withdrawals and pain strained my relationships.
Now that I am using cannabis, I have a better connection with my family, a better relationship with my son, and I can function throughout the day without that foggy drug haze that opiates cause.
Thanks to cannabis, I am on a fraction of the medications I once was, and my quality of life is far better.
Giving meaning to a second chance
Joe has seen the ins and outs of veteran care through the VA from every angle through his ordeal of recovery. Now, he takes that wealth of experience and tries to help others.
My activism was basically spurred on by living for months on end in the VA hospitals, hearing the stories of other veteran’s. So many have given up on the system. They feel that the VA has lost touch and forgotten about it’s primary focus of helping, and gotten bogged down in the bureacracy of it all. Many vets feel forgotten about.
I now help run a Facebook page to share my experiences with the VA, and help others navigate that complicated process, because knowledge is power, and the VA doesn’t tell you certain things, you have to find them out on your own.
Growing up, Joe never partook of the herb, but now, it is vital to his everyday life. You can share your experiences with other veterans, and help each other make the most of what the VA offers, by checking out OEF/OIF Veteran’s Collective on Facebook.
Are you a Veteran who uses cannabis to help with PTSD or as an alternative to other medications? Tell us your story on Facebook and use the hashtag #herbheals. We want to hear your stories of how cannabis has helped heal you.