Yellow Ribbons

By Al Byrne
For Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access

I’m not sure I’ll get the words just right, and you do not want me to sing, but it seems to me it went something like:

“Oh she wore, she wore a yellow ribbon, she wore it for her love who was far, far away. Oh she wore, she wore a yellow ribbon, she wore it in the winter and in the month of May. Oh she wore, she wore a yellow ribbon, she wore it for her love who was far, far away.”

It’s an old US Army, Calvary tune. The Calvary wore yel- low bandanas whether they were white troops or buffa- lo soldiers. It meant something to them when their women wore yellow.

Times change but in the US I see yellow ribbons on trees in front of houses, in some small towns they hang from the street light poles or beneath our flag and the POW banner. The back of every other car sports a ribbon or two.

Does it mean anything? These yellow ribbons. Or is  it just the latest politically correct symbol? My vote is being held on those questions.

I’m waiting to see what the White House of the United States does with a petition they have received from citi- zens of both the US and Canada that do care about yel- low. The signers of the petition were not yellow, anything but. The spirit that moves them is the other yellow, the yellow that says I care. I really do care.

“And when I asked her why she wore the ribbon,  she said she wore it for her love who was far, far away.” Far away in danger or back at “home” she cared, she sup- ported her troop.

The petition: “Allow United States disabled Veterans access to medical marijuana to treat their PTS(d).” (VMCA) was the originator of the petition which was accessed on the White House web page. In a month  VMCA  easily  met  the 5,000 signature requirement that the White House says will give the petition a professional review and a published finding of white house action on the petition. I’m waiting. Seems simple enough. This country allows some Vets to have therapeutic cannabis. The feds issue cannabis to four Directors of Patients Out of Time. Why just them? Why not all disabled Vets? Why not all patients?

The President as I write just declared student loans in the US will play by new rules with the stroke of a pen. The VHA in July 2010 said cannabis is medicine (for some) with the stroke of a pen.

This past June when Delta and American airlines were found to be charging Vets for extra weight coming back from war the public uprising was immediate, dramatic. Delta and American became good citizens and dropped the charges that never should have been there at all.

Where is the uprising for proper medical care of the Vet with the extra weight? Not PC enough or is the yellow ribbon on the bumper indicative, of a different yellow? The color that’s afraid. Cowardly? I did my bit, I put a sticker on my car!

The definition of a petition is that it is a supplication, a prayer, a written plea legally.

I would hope the White House leadership understands that this petition does not meet that definition. This petition is a demand. A demand, made by my signature and those Vets who signed with me, that our Veteran broth- ers and sisters have access to medical cannabis – very quickly.

In 16 states and DC Veterans are treated with dignity if they choose to use cannabis medically. This is true of the private medical community of MD’s and RN’s and in the Veterans Administration facilities.

Vets I know use cannabis for pain from wounds that shattered bones, incinerated flesh, removed parts of their bodies by ripping them off. I know Vets that use it for phantom pain. The leg they don’t have hurts like  hell. Vets use cannabis to quit drinking alcohol and taking harder drugs. They use it to sleep. Sleep, try living with- out it or waking every night, every hour of every night, with a horror story going off in your head. I have seen Vets with TBI use cannabis and how quickly and posi- tively it affects them. It makes you forget some  things that PTS wants you to remember.

What’s wrong with any of that?

Whether any of us like it or not these men and women have done what they were asked to do. I had the privi- lege of being responsible for the logistic support of many combat troops of the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard in Vietnam. The men I served with were the best definition of “man” I’ve ever witnessed. When they came home, when I came home, the country left us to flounder, to hurt, to feel unwanted, to die. In 1989 when I became a combat counselor for Nam Vets more had died by suicide than in the war. That was 22 years ago. That shall not happen again.

Not even a fucking parade?

So this petition is a demand. At least it is my demand.  My name is Al Byrne, I’m a Veteran and I demand Veterans be allowed the option of medical cannabis under the supervision of health care professionals.

And it does not, should not, can not matter where  the Vet lives. If there are 16 states that allow Vets to use cannabis, even under Veteran Administration facility care, that means there are 34 states plus territories, that do not allow therapeutic cannabis protocols.

This is a new, never tried before, medical experiment that does not meet anybody’s ethical definition of proper medical care. No double blind stuff needed.  No histori- cal precedent I can find in human history except in con- centration camps and such places. The real bummer is that this new treatment protocol, I call it “Treatment By Geography” has Vets as guinea pigs. I’d really rather use the pigs.

My friend Brian lives in Hawaii. He’s an Air Force  Vet.  For over 20 years he was denied care in VA hospitals because he used cannabis medically. He called a while back to thank me for my small role in getting Vets cannabis use approval in VA facilities in those 16 states including HI and by extension to him. I appreciated the call. Where I live I’m not appreciated at all.

I live in Virginia where our Army Veteran governor continues to fund Swat teams, black helicopters, hundreds of cops with millions of dollars hunting cannabis plants each year. This summer they caught my neighbor, a two tour Iraq Vet, Marine, 100% disabled, with 3 plants in his gar- den which the state police  stole. 

One of the troopers  that harassed his young wife, while their cars idled, air conditioners running for a couple of hours, to make sure their cars stayed cool (just like them?) was an Iraq Vet.

In Virginia and another 33 states I am treated as a crim- inal for the therapeutic use of cannabis. My detractors, monolithic in their mantra of disingenuous prattle about medical “marijuana” ask time and again why  they should believe my entreaty, my plea, my demand for medicine of my choosing. The answer is plain enough and well said by a Nam brother of mine from NC, Perry Parks, a retired Army Warrant officer, standing in the uniform he wore proudly for over 30 years, who answered a snarly Senator, “you should believe me because I said so!” What more does he have to prove Senator?

We know that cannabis is now accepted medicine in 23 countries, that huge pharmaceutical firms like Bayer and Novartis are distributing whole cannabis extracts called Sativex. We know that the guy running the federal US cannabis farm has a patent on cannabis suppositories and the feds themselves hold two patents on cannabis used medically. The largest hospital group in the US, the Veterans Health Administration has written that cannabis is medicine (1) and partially allows it’s medical use. Allies, Canada, Czechoslovakia, and Israel use

cannabis for their Veterans as a primary aid.

By the years end President Obama will have removed all but Embassy Marines from Iraq. In Afghanistan “they will soldier on.” I learned yesterday that a soldier died just this week- on his fourteenth tour. 14!

I only did one combat tour and that was enough for me or any troop. 3, 5, 14? What can that be like?

I do not have the arrogance, the mendacity to deny men and women anything that could help them after such service. Others do. I’m a Nam Vet and a Vet counselor, and an advocate for Vets and I’m convinced such igno- rance is alive and well. What else could sponsor such a program as medical treatment by geography but igno- rance, arrogance and a dead soul.

I want all of you to rise to this petition wherever you live, whatever your states law and DEMAND an end to the US official policy of Veteran mistreatment for injury while in the service of country. Do it, damm it!

“She wore the yellow ribbon in her hair for her love who was far, far away. Far, far away”

It meant something then.

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