How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

“The cannabis industry needs more veterans, not just because they’re high quality people but because they can get sh*t done.” – Dan Tobon, founder and board member of American Fiber

James Brobyn and Dan Tobon are two veterans with a passion for hiring and helping veterans through their company, American Fiber Co.

Brobyn, CEO of American Fiber Co. served with the U.S. Marine Corps for 13 years with multiple combat deployments and is a Purple Heart recipient. As enlisted, he worked on hueys before commissioning as a mobile infantry officer. James is the former Executive Director of the Travis Manion Foundation, rated 4-Stars by Charity Navigator. He also has experience as the Co-Founder of CauseEngine, which provides on-demand capacity building for the Modern Nonprofit. He attained a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy and M.S. from the University of Pennsylvania in NGO and Non-profit leadership.

Tobon is a founder and board member of American Fiber. U.S. Army veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq. As an 11B, from mounted reconnaissance to light recon, to full-blown sniper reconnaissance for the last five years of his career. He is also the CEO of iVIK Holdings Ltd., an international cannabinoid company. His experience in the cannabis industry stems from his experience as the former CEO & COO of Franklin Labs, a licensed PA producer; Operations and Regulatory Consultant for CannaPharmacy. A successful entrepreneur, his business experience includes several tech start-ups. He also served as an attorney with Latham & Watkins in London and holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois, and J.D. from University of Chicago Law School.

CBD stands for cannabidiol. Although found in many other plants, CBD occurs in higher concentrations in the Cannabis Sativa L. (hemp) plant. CBD is just one of the over 113 cannabinoids found in hemp and is known for its therapeutic and healing properties, but without the THC mind-altering effects or “high” for the person using it.

WATM: How did you come up with this business idea?

Dan: James and I actually met back in Philadelphia back in 2013-2014. My wife took a fellowship at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia so we moved from Chicago. At the time I was the CEO of a company called Starchup. We are currently one of the largest mobile app providers in the laundry delivery space. James and I were part of the first cohort of BunkerLabs Philadelphia chapter. It was a group of about six veterans, all entrepreneurs. James was working on his company at the time, CauseEngine, and we just started paling around with similar interests. We have very similar personalities as go-getters and self-starters. We both took on a mentorship role for the other veteran entrepreneurs at BunkerLabs. After a year, year and half, of knowing each other, Pennsylvania was going to go medically legal. We realized we had both been tapped as prospective applicants for the Pennsylvania medical marijuana licensing initiative. We talked about how much we believed in cannabis, not just CBD, but cannabis in general and the benefits to the veteran community.

My brother happened to be a pain management doctor and saw firsthand the [negative] effects that opioids were having on his patients.  He took a very strong interest in cannabis for pain management. Seeing my friends coming back from Iraq, some resorted to prescription medication or alcohol to deal with some of their issues. They faired poorly compared to the veterans who leaned more toward CBD and other cannabinoids.  My personal experience is from a back injury in Iraq. I went through treatment, physical therapy, VA, private, all that stuff. Cannabis was a much better solution for me personally. I got back from Iraq and went to law school two months later. Cannabis was really the only thing that helped me concentrate on a first-rate education and improve my quality of life.

I became the CEO of a company called Franklin Labs after winning one of the licenses in Pennsylvania. I knew James had a strong interest in the industry, so, I asked him to join the company as the CEO of their Delaware operations. James took over and ran with it. Subsequently, we both left that company and started our own series of companies called American Fiber and iVIK. iVIK is an international cannabis company — it’s one of the companies we source our CBD from. It’s part of an operation out of Colombia called NuSierra. James, another partner, and I were the initial founders of American Fiber, which James is now the CEO and runs.

cannabis company

That’s where the Ambassador and Valorcraft brands are being launched. The use of cannabis is a strong proponent for the treatment of PTSD, chronic pain, back pain and other afflictions our generation of veterans deal with. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve been raising money for early-stage ventures and have launched a couple of successful companies. I met James and he had a shockingly similar profile as me. We found we shared a lot of the same beliefs in regard to cannabis and CBD. It’s been a dream working together because we’ve done a lot of really cool stuff in the space and we’re really excited for the future of these companies.

James: I think one of the cool things here, especially for the readers of We Are The Mighty, is Dan and I found each other through Bunker Labs. Without these local organizations connecting veterans that is not going to happen. To me, if you take the advocacy and all the work we do, the most important thing we can do is get veterans together and working with each other. Dan and I share values on how we want to approach business, same work ethic, and it seems to make a lot of sense to go after it. The opportunity to interact and work with other veterans – creates these other opportunities.

A lot of vets who have been deployed, especially grunts that have been in combat, are perfect to be entrepreneurs in cannabis. The best entrepreneur training is to stick some dudes in a little town in Iraq and say, ‘figure it out.’ There is literally no other better entrepreneurial training better than that. When I worked with Dan and the other partners I realized, ‘holy sh*t, these guys are really smart.’ All these smart people working together is going to make me smarter and better. Everyone has a similar background where no one settled. Everyone is looking to improve, innovate. Push the envelope, work with each other, collaborate and drive teams to succeed.

Cannabis is a very hard business. Navigating it requires great partners and laser focus otherwise it won’t work. We hire a lot of vets, spouses, and families because we share a lot of the same viewpoints we do. Initiative-based decision making is the value veterans bring to the community.

WATM: America is moving closer to nationwide, federal legalization of cannabis products. What myth would you like to dispel regarding the stigma of CBD products?

Dan: That’s a good question.

James: There’s a lot.

(laughs)

James: I think it is very well accepted. In my experience, people see it and generally accept it. There is a misconception around its efficacy, what it does, people can feel like it’s snake oil on the medicinal side. Some people think it’s just an awful drug on the other side. The more I learned about the plant and the endocannabinoid system that is in everyone’s body. They just found the endocannabinoid system like 15 years ago – literally scientists have recently discovered that cannabinoids connect with different receptors in our bodies. That’s where the anti-inflammatory piece comes from [regarding] cannabinoids. That’s why it is specifically so hard to dial in what cannabinoids do what because different cannabinoids react differently to the endocannabinoid system in our body that produces the positive, medicinal effects. That and euphoria. In a lot of ways, it is an incredibly complex, incredibly useful plant on so many levels. Honestly, whether you make rope with it or turn it into a T-shirt or help a kid with his epilepsy. I’ve seen all those things in real life.

Dan: I think the biggest stigma is misplaced. When we were kids, people from our generation were told ‘pharmaceuticals are good but other drugs are bad,’ without any real discussion about the benefits that could be had that have been around for thousands of years. I think we are moving past the stigmatization as more and more people from our generation use these drugs to medicate. One of the things we are fighting is that this is not a placebo. There are real effects that this plant has and real benefits if it is used responsibly. What we really need to do now is call for more scientific research into these molecules to make sure we’re getting the greatest benefit out of them with safety and efficacy. If anything is going to destigmatize the use of this plant it’s going to be learning about it, to have real scientific research done on it. It is truly a shame that veterans are losing benefits in the VA because they are choosing to self-medicate with something that is less harmful than the drugs they’re being given – and it works.  

WATM: How do CBD products help veterans?

Dan: When I got back from Iraq I had an adverse reaction to something called Strattera because of my PTSD and inability to concentrate. I wasn’t getting more than four hours of sleep a night. It was wrecking me. I was going to start grad school in one of the most competitive schools in the world and I literally could not shut my eyes without vehicles exploding. When they put me on that drug, Strattera, I couldn’t sleep for four days straight. It got to the point where I almost had a psychotic episode. Luckily, the people around me noticed I was a little more twitchy than normal. It turned out the psychiatrist had been wrong. The person I was interacting with had zero experience with PTSD patients. That drug is specifically cited to have adverse effects with people going through type of episode. That’s when my brother approached me and said, ‘you should try something a little less intense. Maybe take some gummies I brought from Colorado and see if you can get some sleep.’

I slept like a f**king baby.

I slept almost 24 hours after not having slept for four days. Granted, I was coming down from Strattera and being exhausted contributed to sleeping for that long. That was my introduction using this type of medicine as a medicine to self-care. I was taking a huge risk. Possession of an ounce of cannabis was a felony in the state of Illinois at that time. It was crazy that as a decorated veteran that I couldn’t find a way to be treated with the normal tools were available to the psychiatrist I was seeing at the time. Also that I had to do something illegal to find a medication to help me deal with the issues I was dealing with at the time. The U.S. has come a long way since 2006 in terms of legalization, but I still think we have a ways to go to get the people at the VA healthcare system realize there is a lot of potential to do a lot of good. We have to be responsible with what products people are using, researching efficacy, and safety which is the stage we are at now.

If veterans want to come to you for their medical needs, how would they go about that?

James: Well, don’t come to Dan and I personally because we’re not doctors!

(everyone laughs)

I think it is one of the challenges. We own some dispensaries in Michigan, we’re opening new ones in Delaware, we have access in Nevada. There are two different ways to get medicine, let’s focus on CBD, the state based regulatory systems are what they are. Dan’s oil at NuSierra, one of the easiest ways we recommend to most people is how your body reacts to cannabis. A lot of it is personal, we need to do more research into therapeutics so people take them and have an exact result. [The industry] is years from that. [The industry] needs to spend money and do it. Dialing into your medication, such as for sleep, the CBD we import from Colombia is USDA certified organic from NuSierra. We place it in glass bottles, it’s mixed with coconut oil to make it easier to digest. If you go to AmbassadorCBD.com you can dive through that eCommerce site and you’ll get our USDA organic oil straight from the mountains of Colombia, crafted by another veteran, straight to your door. Field grown, single origin, beautiful.

That’s the way you want to try CBD right now, honestly.

Look for the highest quality product you can get as someone new to CBD. Start from the top and dial it in from there. You want quality, clean products. We’re super transparent and above board but that’s not everybody. Customers can get access to testing and quality assurance information. It helps people narrow down what their CBD dosage is. For example, I take 3ml a day, so, three droplets in my smoothie in the morning and I’m good to go. I take it every day, it helps me stay even all day, stay focused. That’s what I found has been most successful for me. A lot of people use it in the evening for sleep. Everyone is a little different but taking the leap like,‘I want to give this a try,’ will change your life. We also work with SierraDelta, a non-profit organization that provides working dogs to vets. They’re actually one of the best non profits out there from what I could tell.  As we deploy our ValorCraft brand is both a medical marijuana cannabis flower product but it is also going to be a veteran focused CBD line of products. One of our first initiatives is ValorCraft/SierraDelta co-branded products, one focused on the vet and one focused on his dog.

Basically the consumers would buy it for themselves and something like $5 or other portion of the proceeds would go to SierraDelta directly. We give back part of our sales, we already do in Michigan, that’s very valuable. As we get our operations up an running, we encourage and retain veterans as high quality people. Living by our values by supporting veterans. We don’t want to be like other companies who say they’re going to give a percentage of their proceeds and never do it.

We’re going to do it by giving them money based off of every sale. We want to help vets by putting our month where our mouth is by supporting great charities like SierraDelta.  Near term one of the most important things we have coming up is launching our AmbassadorCBD line. We’re very excited about having people trying high quality, imported CBD oil from Jamaica and Colombia. Especially the NuSierra line, which is the only USDA 100% certified organic oil coming in from anywhere overseas – we’re the only people that can import it. We have a lot of exciting stuff going on.

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of We Are The Mighty?

James: When it comes to the cannabis [industry] I say take the risk and jump in. It’s an awesome industry. Professionally, how people are trained, the industry needs you.

I want to hire veterans because they’re bad ass. Not because somebody feels bad for them. No! You get some meateaters sitting at the table, you’re going to get a lot of stuff done. You’re going to do it and you’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. You can trust that they’re going to deliver because they told you they were going to do it. That’s the advantage of hiring vets [as a vet] because you have this common starting place. They still have to earn their spot but if I have a former grunt platoon sergeant or 0369 that doesn’t know how to get out after it, I’m going to know pretty quick. There are a lot more of the guys who do know how to get out after it and get it done responsibly with high integrity. Tons of opportunity there.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A combat vet is kitting up to protect florida school

A heavily armed man is patrolling the hallways of a Florida school. His only job? Prevent a mass shooting.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Harold Verdecia, a 39-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan has been hired as the first guardian at the Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida. Verdercia wears body armor and carries a Glock 19X handgun, but it’s his Kel-Tec “Bullpup” rifle, loaded with exploding rounds, that’s raising eyebrows.


After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting a year ago February 2019, the Florida legislature passed a law requiring all schools to have armed guardians on campus. School districts and charter schools can choose how to arm those guardians, with most choosing 9-millimeter handguns.

MSA Principal Bill Jones outlined to the Herald-Tribune a specific scenario — shooter armed with a rifle, clad in body armor, looking to cause maximum damage — in justifying the unusual move of arming his school’s guardian with a rifle.

Verdercia completed 144 hours of training facilitated by the Manatee County Sherriff’s Office. He also went through extra training to carry the rifle on school grounds.

Palmetto’s Manatee School of the Arts Ramping up more Safety and Security

www.youtube.com

Security experts, however, seem skeptical of Jones’s insistence that a semi-automatic rifle is appropriate for the job. Walt Zalisko, a retired police chief and police management consultant, told the Herald-Tribune that the school would be safer with its rifles locked away and its guardian building relationships with students, not singularly focused on a mass casualty event.

Michael Dorn, president of a company that has performed security assessments of dozens of school systems in Florida, told the New York Times that a long gun is a more dangerous weapon for someone to take from an officer and that it’s harder for an officer to subdue and handcuff a suspect when he’s carrying such a gun.

Jones doesn’t seem to mind the criticism. He’s currently reviewing applications and hopes to hire a second rifle-toting guardian soon.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Veterans

Level up your computer skills with MST

MST is an online platform that takes learning how to use computer software to a new level. The company uses a combination of technology and face-to-face teacher time to teach practical, functional, business-centric Microsoft Office software skills. That makes this is the ideal platform for transitioning service members, military spouses and military caregivers to learn. Students can choose how and when they learn. MST currently offers courses on Excel and has plans to introduce additional software to the curriculum, such as Microsoft PowerPoint.

For over three decades, software has continued to increase in popularity and usefulness. That’s no better illustrated than with the popularity of Excel. Over 750 million people use Microsoft Excel to make life easier and grow businesses and organizations’ profitability.

Why is knowing how to use Excel important?

A robust understanding of Microsoft Excel applies to just about everyone. From organizing data in easy-to-navigate charts, many industries rely on Excel in some way or another. At this point in our digital world, Excel is basically an industry standard. From sales to finance to engineers, Excel functions have practical uses every day.

Excel can also help you boost productivity – if you know how to use it. For transitioning service members and those reentering the job market, creating spreadsheets might be a cornerstone to a new career. Mastering Excel means you might become a key asset in your new team.

What can you learn with MST?

The current course offered by MST is Microsoft Excel that includes three learning levels:

  • Fundamentals (for learners who are yet to interact with the software), a single session of 90 minutes.
  • Basics (for learners aiming to attain a practical, functional understanding of the Excel software), two hours per session and a day-apart.
  • Intermediate (prepares learners for everyday use of the Excel software), two sessions of two hours per session and a day-apart.
MST reviews

How do you choose the right course?

MST also offers a set of direct yes/no questions designed to help you understand the course level that is most suited for you.

Microsoft first launched Microsoft Excel in 1985. MST was established in 2019 and began offering Microsoft Excel software courses almost immediately after its launch. Since then, MST has effectively equipped people from most parts of the world with skills and knowledge to use Excel for the best results.

No one ever said learning Excel is fun, but MST does its best to make it simple and effective. Post-course surveys conducted by MST illustrate that the company is committed to constantly improving both its courses and student work performance. The practical, functional, and business-centric skills acquired at MST can help you improve your productivity. For transitioning service members, expanding the range of opportunities accessible to you makes MST an easy choice.

Founder Steve Bradbury told WATM why MST is such a great fit for the military community: “While the military provides exceptional training in so many areas that are applicable to future careers, the reality is not every service member leaves active duty with effective business productivity skills. Microsoft Excel (and PowerPoint) continue to be the gold standard in most business environments. My Software Tutor provides practical, functional hands-on training. Learners come away with a solid foundation of real-world skills.

Bradbury continued, “eLearning can be defined as asynchronous or synchronous. In the first scenario, learners study independently. It’s you and the computer (watch a video, take a test). For many others, optimal learning was established in a classroom with a live instructor. In our courses, they get to ask questions and interact with other students. We believe this is a far more effective way to learn. It’s the core experience we provide with My Software Tutor.

“If you ask people what their most challenging subject is to learn,” Bradbury explained, “many would likely say either math or technology. Now imagine how many would agree if you combined the two? My Software Tutor tackles this challenge head on. We bring calm, patience and humor to every course. Read some of the kind words we’ve received from learners. That’s why our motto is ‘we turn on your learning lightbulb.'”

Active duty military and veterans receive a 25% discount for all courses. No promo code is needed!

popular

A missing Airman’s remains were identified after 74 years

Captain Lawrence Dickson was just 24 when his red-tailed P-51 Mustang fighter was downed in 1944. He was an African-American fighter pilot, trained at the Army’s famed Tuskegee Army Airfield. Of the more than 1,000 black pilots trained at Tuskegee’s segregated flying school, Dickson was one of 27 to go missing in action over Nazi-occupied Europe. Presumed dead, his remains went missing for more than 70 years.

Dickson was leading an escort for a photo reconnaissance mission that day, taking off from an Allied airfield in Italy, bound for Prague. But Dickson’s plane began to have engine trouble. No sooner did the pilot radio his squadron about the issue did his wingman report Dickson clearing the canopy of his fighter to bail out, according to the Washington Post. He made the jump at 26,000 feet.

No wreckage or parachute evidence was ever found.


Before taking off for the last time on Dec. 23, 1944, Lawrence Dickson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Since it was his 68th mission, he was just two shy of getting to go back to the U.S. for leave from the war. Considering the war in Europe would end less than six months later, he very likely would have survived.

In August, 2017, a team of researchers in the Austrian Alps came across the wreckage of a P-51 Mustang and some human remains. They contacted the U.S. Army. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency analyst Joshua Frank found a crash site similar to Dickson’s listed in captured Nazi downed aircraft records. The DoD agency tested the DNA of the body found at the site against those of his now-75-year-old daughter, Marla Andrews.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Lawrence E. Dickson (second left), pictured in 1942 with other airmen at Tuskegee Army Army Air Field.

It was a match.

Sadly, Dickson’s wife Phyllis did not live to the see his remains repatriated to the United States. All she was ever told was that his body was nonrecoverable in 1949. But his daughter Marla still decorates her home with photos of her heroic father, his training certificates, and his medal citations.

She also keeps the letter from her father’s wingman, written 50 years after the war’s end.

“The act of writing to you so many years after … brings to me a sadness. And yet I hope it will bring you a moment of peaceful remembrance of a loving father whom you lost.”


MIGHTY TRENDING

These 15 Medal of Honor recipients are headed to Super Bowl LII

Chad Hennings, Kevin Greene, and Roger Staubach are just a few of our brothers-in-arms that happened to also be incredible football players who earned themselves Super Bowl rings.


For more than four decades, the NFL and the military have shared a special relationship that involves the posting of the colors during the National Anthem and historic flyovers.

This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league has invited 15 Medal of Honor recipients to participate in the official on-field coin toss ceremony before Super Bowl LII officially kicks off.

Related: This veteran A-10 pilot has three Super Bowl rings

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Members of the Armed Forces Color Guard and drummers from the U.S. Air Force Band, all based in Washington, D.C., perform during the Super Bowl XLV game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Feb. 6, 2011. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

Also Read: 6 military veterans who played in the Super Bowl

Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams, who earned his distinguished award during the Battle of Iwo Jima, is scheduled to conduct the traditional coin flip at Sunday’s game.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Medal of Honor recipient and Marine veteran Hershel Moody with two of his brothers-in-arms. (Image from DoD)

The other Medal of Honor recipients in attendance include:

  • Bennie Adkins: Army, Vietnam (award delayed 9/15/2014)
  • Don Ballard: Navy, Vietnam (awarded 5/14/1970)
  • Sammy Davis: Army, Vietnam (awarded 11/18/1967)
  • Roger Donlon: Army, Vietnam (awarded 12/5/1964)
  • Sal Giunta: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 11/16/2010)
  • Flo Groberg: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 11/12/2015)
  • Tom Kelley: Navy, Vietnam (awarded 5/17/1969)
  • Allan Kellogg: MarinesVietnam (awarded 10/15/1973)
  • Gary Littrell: Army, Vietnam (awarded 10/15/1973)
  • Walter Marm: Army, Vietnam (awarded 12/19/1966)
  • Robert Patterson: Army, Vietnam (awarded 10/10/1969)
  • Leroy Petry: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 7/12/2011)
  • Clint Romesha: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 2/11/2013)
  • James Taylor: Army, Vietnam (awarded 11/19/1968)
  • Woody Williams: Marines, WWII (awarded 10/5/1945)

To date, the NFL has partnered with several veteran organizations to raise support and awareness, including the Pat Tillman Foundation, TAPS, USO, and Wounded Warrior Project.

Super Bowl LII kicks off on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, live from U.S. Bank Stadium.

Humor

A Vietnam vet’s daughter wrote this funny, heartfelt obituary for her dad

Terry Wayne Ward was a joker his whole life. That’s how everyone knew him. Sadly, he died from a stroke at age 71 in January 2018. When it came time for his daughter to write his obituary, she knew she had to honor his life in a way that evoked his unique sense of humor.


“Terry Wayne Ward, age 71, of DeMotte, IN, escaped this mortal realm on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018, leaving behind 32 jars of Miracle Whip, 17 boxes of Hamburger Helper, and multitudes of other random items that would prove helpful in the event of a zombie apocalypse,” she wrote on his page for the Geisen Funeral Home.

“He is preceded in death by his parents Paul and Bernice Ward, daughter Laura Pistello, grandson Vincent Pistello, brother Kenneth Ward, a 1972 Rambler, and a hip.”

Sounds like a veteran’s sense of humor to me.

“With him as a father, there was absolutely no other way to write this obituary,” his daughter, Jean Lahm told The New York Post in an interview.

The obituary continues:

“He met the love of his life, Kathy, by telling her he was a lineman – he didn’t specify early on that he was a lineman for the phone company, not the NFL. Still, Kathy and Terry wed in the fall of 1969, perfectly between the Summer of Love and the Winter of Regret.”

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Terry Ward with his wife, Kathy.

Terry Ward died knowing that a young Clint Eastwood was the world’s biggest badass. Like many veterans, he liked hunting, fishing, golfing, snorkeling, hiking Turkey Run, chopping wood, shooting guns, cold beer, free beer, The History Channel, CCR, and war movies.

But he also liked ABBA, Bed Bath Beyond, and starlight mints.

The obituary was picked up on Twitter by scores of local journalists, then national journalists, who all shared the admiration they had for his daughter’s word, and of course, Terry Ward.

 

 

Ward “despised ‘uppity foods’ like hummus, which his family lovingly called ‘bean dip’ for his benefit, which he loved consequently. He couldn’t give a damn about most material things, and automobiles were never to be purchased new. He never owned a personal cell phone and he had zero working knowledge of the Kardashians.”

Most importantly, Terry Ward wanted you to make donations in his name to “your favorite charity or your favorite watering hole, where you are instructed to tie a few on and tell a few stories of the great Terry Ward.”

So, We Are The Mighty wanted to share everything we knew about the great Terry Ward with you.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Operation Mail Call connects isolated Veterans with the world

Veterans in the community living center (CLC) at VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System, like CLC residents throughout the VA health care system, are isolated due to COVID-19 safety precautions and unable to receive visitors.


But thanks to the hundreds of letters they have received through Operation Mail Call, they know they haven’t been forgotten.

Call to action

Operation Mail Call began when Navy Veteran Tim Moran posted a call to action on Facebook. Moran is a VA Central Western Massachusetts registered nurse.

“I asked people to write to our Veterans in the CLC on the main campus since they can’t leave or receive visitors for their own safety,” says Moran. “We received between 115 to 120 pieces of mail in response to that first Facebook post. Every Veteran received at least three or four letters during the first mail all.”

Inspired by Navy service

Moran says Operation Mail Call was inspired by his time as a sailor in the Navy. “I worked on a fast frigate homeported in San Diego. My high school sweetheart used to write me letters scented with perfume. I used to read those letters over and over again.”

As Moran prepared to deploy to a VA CLC in Bedford, Massachusetts, to help care for coronavirus patients, he handed the project over to VA Recreation Therapist Meaghan Breed.

“We’re happy to spread the love to other Veterans who live on our main campus. And to those who are unable to receive visitors at this time as well,” Breed says.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 signs that a veteran’s story is ‘totally legit’

Since ancient times, warriors have gathered around the fire to recall battles fought with comrades over flagons of strong ale. Today, we keep this same tradition — except the storytelling usually happens in a smoke pit or dingy bar.

If you’ve been part of one of these age-old circles, then you know there’s a specific set of mannerisms that’s shared by service members, from NCOs to junior enlisted. The way veterans tell their stories is a time-honored tradition that’s more important than the little details therein — and whether those details are true or not. Not every piece of a veteran’s tale is guaranteed to be accurate, but the following attributes will tell you that it’s legit enough.


How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Just hear them out. Either out of politeness or apathy — your choice.

Beginning the story with “No sh*t, there I was…”

No good story begins without this phrase. It draws the reader in and prepares them to accept the implausible. How else are you going to believe their story about their reasonably flimsy military vehicle rolling over?

It’s become so much of an on-running trope in veteran storytelling that it’s basically our version of “once upon a time.”

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

But sometimes, you just have to tell the new guy that everything they just signed up for f*cking sucks.

Going into extreme (and pointless) detail

Whenever a veteran begins story time for a civilian, they’ll recall the little details about where they were deployed, like the heat and the smell.

Now, we’re not saying these facts are completely irrelevant, but the stage-setting can get a bit gratuitous.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

If your story is about your time as a boot, everyone will just believe you… likely because your story is too boring to fact check.

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Constantly reminding the listener that they can look it up

The military has paperwork for literally everything. Let’s say you’re telling the story of how you were the platoon guidon bearer back in basic training. If you tried hard enough, you could probably find a document somewhere to back that statement up.

As outlandish as some claims may be, nobody is actually to put in the work to fact-check a story — especially when you’re just drinking beers at the bar.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Maybe it was because I was boring, but I never understood why people felt the need to go overboard with hiding people in the trunk. Just say, “they left their ID in the barracks.”

(Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Zeski)

Citing someone that may or may not exist as a source

Among troops and veterans, it’s easy for most of us forget that people also have first names. This is why so many of our stories refer to someone named of ‘Johnson,’ ‘Brown,’ or ‘Smith.’ It’s up to you whether you want to believe this person actually exists.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

If they start getting into the stories that will make grandma blush, fewer nudges are required.

(U.S. Army photo)

Tapping the listener’s arm if they lose interest

Military stories tend to drag on forever. Now, this isn’t because they’re boring, but rather because the storyteller vividly remembers nearly every detail.

Sometimes, those telling the story feel the need to check in on the listener to make they’re absorbing it all. Most vets do with this a little nudge.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Basically how it works.

(Comic by Broken and Unreadable)

Filling in the blanks with “because, you know… Army”

It’s hard to nail down every minute detail of military culture, like how 15 minute priors really work.

Some things can only be explained with a hand wave and a simple, “because, you know, that’s how it was in the service.”

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Or they could just be full of sh*t. But who cares? If it’s a fun story, it’s a fun story.

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Finishing the story in a way that fosters one-upsmanship

Veterans’ stories aren’t intended to over-glorify past actions — even if that’s how it sounds to listeners. Generations upon generations of squads have told military stories as a way of a team-building, not as a way for one person to win a non-existent p*ssing contest.

Whether the storyteller knows it or not, they often finish up a tale by signaling to the listener that it’s now their turn to tell an even better story. Just like their squad leader did for them all those years ago.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The earliest-born American to be photographed is also a veteran

Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with George Washington. He was also the earliest-born person, one of only a handful of Revolutionary War veterans, to be photographed. But there is one important historical inaccuracy in the legend of Conrad Heyer that may not add up.


Heyer was born an American in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the State of Maine) around 1749. He sat for this photo in 1852, at age 103. In that time, he saw the young republic finish the British off during the American Revolution and fight them, again, to a draw in the War of 1812. He saw President Jefferson purchase Louisiana and watched President Polk and the U.S. Army defeat Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War of 1847.

In his 107 years of life, he saw 15 Presidents of the United States, 31 colonies and territories become U.S. states, and barely missed the start of the Civil War.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
TV wasn’t around back then. He had to watch something.

Although this is not the earliest photo of an American, Heyer was the earliest-born American to be photographed (and this is actually a daguerrotype — an early kind of photography).

In the telling of Conrad Heyer’s Revolutionary War tale, however, people have been adding one detail for decades that just might not be true: that Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with General Washington in 1776.

Washington’s daring plan to attack Hessian mercenaries in Trenton on Christmas, 1776, was audacious and dangerous. Any troop who fell into the icy river would likely die — and two of the three flat boats set to make the crossing didn’t even make it. Somehow, Heyer was counted among those in Washington’s boat, according to the Maine Historical Society.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Look out for icebergs, Conrad.

The Journal of the American Revolution did some digging into Heyer’s story. They went back to the sworn testimony Heyer gave years after the Revolution when applying for a veteran’s pension.

In 1818, Congress allotted funds to give pensions to veterans of the Continental Army who were struggling financially. Applicants had to prove their service either by enlistment documents or sworn testimony of those they served with. Don N. Hagist went back to the National Archives for the Journal of the American Revolution and found Heyer’s original sworn testimony, along with the support of his officers.

Heyer did serve in the Continental Army, but his testimony states he served for a year, starting in the middle of December, 1775. But Heyer says he was discharged in December 1777. This could allow for Heyer to have served at the Battle of Trenton. The records of Heyer’s unit, the 25th Continental Regiment, indicate that the unit served in Canada and was disbanded in New Jersey in 1776.

It looks like the year 1777 was a mistake made by the person who wrote Heyer’s pension deposition, as mentions of Heyer and his unit disappear into history a year earlier.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
But not the hearts of Revolutionary War re-enactors.

If he was discharged in Fishkill, New York, as records show, then there is little chance he could have been at the Delaware River crossing in time to join Washington by Christmas, even if he did re-enlist.

But by the time he died, his obituary claimed he’d served three years in the Revolution. Heyer, in reaffirming his pension claim in 1855, swore that he served those three years and was also at the Battle of Saratoga, being present to see General John Burgoyne surrender to Horatio Gates and was later part of Washington’s “bodyguard.”

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
His second exploit worthy of a painting.

This is where Heyer could be correct — there is no complete list of members of General Washington’s guard corps. The guard was hand-picked from members of Washington’s field army.

But never once did Heyer ever swear that he was with Washington at the Delaware Crossing.

See Conrad Heyer’s pension statements at the Journal of the American Revolution.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

The sheer magnitude of traumatic brain injury in the military is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Troops can get TBI from any number of actions. Everything carries a TBI risk, from routine training to combat operations, so it’s no surprise the injury is getting more attention in recent years. The U.S. military has counted the number of TBI cases suffered by its troops since 2000, and the numbers are sadly very big.

More than 383,000 American troops have suffered some form of TBI, either in daily operations or in a theater of combat. What is most startling about the numbers isn’t just how many, it’s how many people in each branch suffered such injuries. Soldiers of the U.S. Army are far more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.


How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

While the numbers of overall penetrating and severe TBI are thankfully relatively low, mild injuries make up a bulk of the cases, even when the injuries are broken down by branch. And while “moderate” TBI may not seem as dire as the word “moderate” sounds, those with moderate brain injuries can find themselves with reduced mobility, motor function, and unable to speak effectively. A recent video highlighting caretakers of TBI veterans by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation highlights just how hard life can be for a victim of moderate TBI.

Unfortunately, moderate brain injuries are the second largest number of injuries suffered by U.S. troops. But the real tragedy is how many TBI sufferers are in the U.S. Army.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Of the more than 383,000 troops that have suffered TBI since 2000, a staggering 225,144 of them have been in some component of the Army. Some 15.8 percent of that was National Guard troops, while 7.3 percent were Army Reserve. The rest, 76.9 percent, were active-duty troops. The numbers on what types of TBI mirror the numbers of all branches put together, with mild being the most widespread, followed by moderate, penetrating, and severe cases.

The rest of the branches hover between 52,000 and 54,000, the Marines have slightly more TBI reports, probably by nature of what they do. This data also reflects an update to the definitions of TBI, more information about the injuries, and subsequent reviews of existing Pentagon data.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Ford’s clumsiness is now enshrined forever

Gerald Ford had a reputation for being clumsy.


As we learned during our tour of the new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the former president’s clumsiness almost cost him his life as a young sailor.

During World War II, Ford served as a navigation officer on the USS Monterey.

Related: These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

At one point, a large wave almost washed Ford overboard the Monterey, but his foot got caught on a drain, preventing him from going over, US Navy spokesman Corey Todd Jones told Business Insider.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford. (Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum.)

There’s now a statue immortalizing that moment in the hangar bay of the USS Ford, which even features the drain that saved his life.

The statue, however, is removed when the ship is deployed.

One of the president’s most famous falls came on a rainy day in December 1975. Ford was walking down the stairs of Air Force One when he slipped and fell down the remaining steps.

Also read: Search gerald ford That time Gerald Ford promoted George Washington to six-star general

Unfortunately for Ford, who was actually a decorated college football player, that wasn’t the only stumble he made as president.

He also once tripped going up the stairs of Air Force One, and reportedly fell while skiing.

Chevy Chase routinely mocked him on Saturday Night Live, and there was even apparently a running joke at the time that Ford’s vice-president was just a banana peel away from the presidency.

Here’s the infamous slip:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.

Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”


Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.

In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
It was expanded after WWI to include all fallen troops from all wars.

The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.

After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.

The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
As pleasant as it is to enjoyu00a0time off and au00a0cookouts are, it turned into a double-edged sword.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.

Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
If a veteran can make it there, this is generally how they spend their three-day weekend. If they can’t, this is where their head is at.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)

To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Battle of Iwo Jima and the unbreakable Navajo Code

Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.


“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”

The Unbreakable Code

Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN
Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION
Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information