I had spent nearly a year living at the West Los Angeles VA hospital. I started in the substance abuse track and eventually moved to the combat trauma treatment track. I was put on methadone, welbutrin, prazosin, and trazadone. These were required of me to take in order to have a bed. A bed which I had to interview for. That’s right. Interview for. I started at the Salvation Army Haven on the campus. This is an emergency shelter for veterans waiting for treatment. It was horrible there. Staff is mean and it is full of bedbugs. From there you are required to interview with case workers who will evaluate your potential for recovery...meaning they want people to do well so they can get funding. I watched them literally turn veterans away who had crack problems while my heroin and Pharma addiction was deemed “manageable.” Managed until I got into an argument with my roommate, another combat veteran...imagine that two combat vets, in treatment, getting into it. Of course it happened all the time, but me being outspoken about how I saw the track failing us, that was all they needed for me to be ousted from treatment. An argument, not physical, from a veteran who was a leader and was doing what I had to not just to be well, but to be a father. This landed me in the back of a VA police squad car to be transported to the psych ward in the main hospital. I put my phone between my ass cheeks and snuck it in there saying I’d left it in my room. By the time I turned the camera on they had put me in a gown and made me take Ativan. I begged to see a doctor...My doctor...Dr Haas. She called and consented what they had done, but never spoke to me. This was while the alarms were apparently malfunctioning as you can see in the video. Psych holding is where veterans amidst a suicide epidemic were supposed to find treatment, love, and purpose. I found none of those things. They took my phone eventually and put me in a padded room to “rest.” Alarms and lights still “malfunctioning.” After a few hours they brought me back, in a police car again, to the domicile where the staff had taken it upon itself to gather my things and put them outside the building. No plan. No place to go. Washed their hands of me. Thankfully I had done enough work on myself to be allowed to stay with my mother for a time. But I was not better. I was not safe. And I eventually would relapse on heroin. I went back to the VA though. I completed the methadone treatment, getting off it took years, but I did it. With cannabis and community, I did it. I needed to nurture my new found wellness but not at the VA which is now a source of trauma for me. So I got a job and started working in outdoor retail. I humbled myself and served privileged humans their climbing shoes and toe socks. And I found my love of nature to be the source of my wellness. So I started hiking and consuming cannabis almost everyday. Though I enjoyed the solitude it quickly turned to isolation, which was a trigger for me. So I made a social media account and started sharing when and where I’d be hiking as well as what cannabis I’d be consuming. This became my therapy and many others began to join. Here we are nearly four years since the very first Walk and Talk. I am now as mentally and physically strong as I could hope for. Making gains everyday in my overall strength and confidence. You may not agree with everything I or VWAT does and says. But through all this growth I have remembered I am an artist. I am creative. I have to speak up. VWAT is in the soul of cannabis. We are engrained in the web of the mycelium. We are community and love and light and we do what the VA cannot, has not, and will not. I am grateful for my military pension from the VA. But the care of veterans in this country is reflective of the care our country gives its everyday citizens...complacent. “If we don’t see it, it does not effect us.” This is the mentality that has brought us to the place we are today. Leaderless and floundering. There is hope...every veteran awoken to health and wellness butterfly effects their entire circle. And that is how leaders are forged. My amazing girlfriend and partner in everything Cuqui and I will not even have our baby at the VA. It would be completely free but we would rather pay and take a chance with private insurance than risk the malpractice, negligence, and complacency of the VA. Veterans are the ones helping veterans. Non profits, individuals, “illegal” medicine men, we are the ones making an impact. For those of us who will not accept the mishandling of veterans, the VA was inspirational towards helping others...Not because of their successes but because of their failures. The VA failed me but I would not be the man I am if it hadn’t. A man I love. We have work to do. Join us. Thank you.