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PFC Jared Hunter Forced To Make A Shameful Choice

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PFC Jared Hunter Forced To Make A Shameful Choice

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Before he tried marijuana, he thought of trying suicide.

Heavy drinking hadn’t helped. Nor had various pills prescribed by Veterans Affairs doctors. He was still angry, still depressed, still could not sleep.

But he found that marijuana helped. It took the anger and depression away. It took the sleeplessness away. Most of all, it took the 11-year-old boy away.

PFC Jared Hunter never knew the boy’s name. He was just some Iraqi kid who liked to hang around the Army base outside Baghdad. “He didn’t really speak English or nothing. He would just kind of follow us around and would point things out or tell us if there was somebody there who shouldn’t have been.” The soldiers adopted him as a mascot. Hunter bought him a soccer ball.

The boy was with the soldiers when they came under fire while patrolling an alley. When the shooting was over, he was dead.

If combat does nothing else, it hardens you to indiscriminate death. “You just learn to deal with it,” says Hunter. “Something like that happens, at that time you just walk on past it and forget about it. Of course, later on,” he adds softly, “it may come up a little bit or something somewhere.”

It came up with a vengeance on Hunter. He’s a 30-year-old Arkansas native living near Daytona Beach who joined the Army in 2003 right out of high school and served two tours. He was discharged with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, a neat, clinical term for night terrors, heart palpitations, rage, and the seductive lure of suicide. Hunter was almost seduced. He says he was sitting there with gun in hand when his father found him.

Finally, a friend suggested something he had never tried: marijuana. He says pot worked like magic. “It calmed the anxiety. I wasn’t having near as many anger problems. … The suicide stuff went away. I didn’t really feel that desperate to do anything like that again. I’ve got a bad back and a bad neck; it relieved any kind of pain that I had. It just helped so tremendously that it was unbelievable. Nightmares. … I could actually go to sleep. I didn’t have insomnia. I wasn’t scared to go to sleep. I could actually lay down and … get a halfway decent night’s rest.”

Marijuana had saved him. Then, last year, police came to his door. He still has no idea who tipped them off. They arrested him and confiscated marijuana plants he says he was growing for his own use. Hunter found himself facing five years in prison. Prosecutors offered a deal: Plead guilty and accept probation. He refused. He didn’t want to be branded a criminal and stripped of his civil rights.

But last week, he accepted a new offer. It requires him to pay court costs and costs of prosecution, amounting to less than $1,000. His record will show not a conviction, but a withhold of adjudication — essentially, a judicial get-out-of-jail-free card that leaves his civil rights intact.

One is glad Hunter’s legal travails have come to such a favorable end. But who’s to say the next person in his position will be as fortunate? More to the point, we should be appalled this sort of thing is even possible, that a veteran can be threatened with prison because he used the only effective treatment for a wound incurred in the service of his country.

That scenario is viscerally offensive — and well worth remembering as America continues the torturous process of reforming its drug laws and drug hypocrisies.

Hunter, meantime, is thinking seriously of moving to Colorado or some other marijuana-friendly state. The problem, he says, is that cold weather causes his physical wounds intense pain. In effect, then, he is required to decide between the well-being of his body and that of his mind.

That’s a shameful choice to impose on a man who damaged both body and mind fighting for his country. And for, you know, freedom.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

Photo: Mark via Flickr

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Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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24 Comments

  1. gl May 25, 2015

    These barbaric marihuana laws continue to be enforced in some states.

    Reply
    1. JPHALL May 25, 2015

      The guy should move to Southern Calif. where he can get a medical marijuana card and be left in peace.

      Reply
      1. hicusdicus May 26, 2015

        If he comes here I will help him get all he needs. That is the least I could do for a wounded warrior who fought for my right to be safe and free. What has gone so wrong with our country?

        Reply
  2. Kurt CPI May 25, 2015

    This is just the good ole’ boys club of big pharma and politicians insuring that the commercial high-priced, indefinably more dangerous, often less-effective drugs are the only choice we have.

    Reply
  3. angryspittle May 25, 2015

    There isn’t a soldier since 1945 that has fought for freedom or to protect the nation or defend the constitution. On this memorial day we should all finally recognize that all these folks were brutally and cynically used by corporate interests so they could steal other nations resources.

    Reply
    1. hicusdicus May 26, 2015

      Horse Hockey.

      Reply
      1. angryspittle May 26, 2015

        In what fucking way does that represent disrespecting our troops? That is simply recognition that they have been cynically used for purposes other than what they swore an oath to. Jesus, WTF is wrong with you? do you not understand fucking English?

        Reply
      2. angryspittle May 26, 2015

        Name one single conflict since 1945 where a single US soldier sacrificed for the freedom and liberty of America, the constitution or any other thing they were told they were defending? From Korea to SEA to central America to Africa, to the ME and anywhere else. Afghanistan….the grave yard of empires…..very little to do with American freedom and liberty. Simply bloodlust and vengeance.

        Reply
        1. hicusdicus May 26, 2015

          You should get in the fertilizer business, you would make a fortune.

          Reply
    2. (侍) May 26, 2015

      GRrrrrr

      Reply
      1. angryspittle May 26, 2015

        In what fucking way dos that statement disrespect our troops? That is simply a recognition that they were cynically used for purposes other than what they swore an oath to. Jesus.

        Reply
        1. hicusdicus May 26, 2015

          Can you converse without using gutter snipe language? You are infringing into my territory. I have patents I will sue.

          Reply
          1. angryspittle May 26, 2015

            I thought I had the patent…..damn.

            Reply
        2. (侍) May 26, 2015

          In everyway, you are so full of it. You bring dishonor to our troops and dishonor to yourself may I suggest 切腹 for you.

          Reply
          1. angryspittle May 26, 2015

            I in no way brought dishonor to the troops, only to the goddamn criminals who sent them to die for corporate profits. WTF don’t you understand about what I said? Are you not familiar with the goddamn English language? Or just fucking stupid?

            Reply
          2. (侍) May 26, 2015

            You have done nothing but showed that you are both an idiot and a fool.

            Reply
          3. angryspittle May 26, 2015

            Jesus, you actually believe this sentimental propagandistic bullshit don’t you?

            Reply
          4. (侍) May 27, 2015

            sure I do because it is the truth

            Reply
      2. angryspittle May 26, 2015

        I hope you don’t vote Republican, they are the assholes who really disrespect the troops by cutting their benefits and screwing them once they come home.

        Reply
        1. (侍) May 27, 2015

          more lies

          Reply
          1. angryspittle May 27, 2015

            You really live in a different world fro the rest of us. A world where fucking facts fail to penetrate thick skulls with preconceived notions.

            Reply
          2. (侍) May 27, 2015

            sounds like you are looking in a mirror. And also just maybe you need a hug.

            Reply
          3. (侍) May 27, 2015

            sounds like you are looking in a mirror. And also just maybe you need a hug

            Reply
  4. R Michael Maddox May 26, 2015

    I can surely empathies with the Warrior. I have the same problem. They tell me “Take this Morphine, Hydrocodone, Soma, Baclofen and Mirtazapine and we will drug test you every six months and you BETTER NOT have Marijuana in your system!” Maybe when the Pharmaceutical companies get in the Marijuana business, they can pay the VA docs to prescribe it for us!! I say BS. I Will SMOKE and now have weaned myself down from the large doses they had me on. All will be OKAY! He.He. “Just an Old Hippy Trying Real Hard To Adjust”! Love them Bellamy Brothers, HATE THEM COCK BROS>

    Reply

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