How America Really Treats Combat Vets

Salem News

April 10, 2008 – Salem, OR — The notion of becoming a U.S. Marine is a huge one for any young person standing at the recruiter’s door. You have to be very committed and driven to succeed and even make it through basic training, let alone the life of a Marine at war.

A Marine recruit guide is shown at the far left carrying the platoon guide.

This is a story about a Marine guide and a country that needs to back up its rhetoric when it comes to supporting veterans. Words after all, are almost as cheap as bumper stickers.

This is also a story of repeated tragedy for the American combat vet, particularly Marines, who often feel as supported in our society as a member of the Manson Family.

What we seem to be learning is that in spite of all the flag waving, people in this country are often against Marines. Southern California is the tip of the spear and we aren’t talking about war protesters or hippies or “liberal” people.

No way, the first group to turn on that honorable military service is frequently the police. But society in general rejects the nation’s most elite warriors also. The movies show the hardcore sacrifice that accompanies a Marine life: (WWII – Flags of our Fathers) (Vietnam – Full Metal Jacket) (Iraq – The Four Horsemen) but only a Marine really knows.

Medical Marijuana is an answer for PTSD

Washington and Jefferson were both hemp farmers, the Constitution is written on hemp or “marijuana”paper, it is time to move forward. He told me I should quit taking all the pills, and quit drinking. I started using medical cannabis and I quit drinking, taking pills and smoking cigarettes all at once. I started to feel like I might actually get a normal life back. The medical marijuana worked, but was very expensive. I read a beginner’s guide to CBD oil and learned how to get it cheaper. It’s obvious to me now why the prices are kept so high and by whom. Well you can buy weed online in affordable price for good health.

The CBD Chocolate UK craze about the globe has exploded and being liked by millions and the top 1% are trying to use their cash and also power to reject the already been oppressed compound. The late 1800’s very early 1900’s it was at the center of many cure-all mixtures up until the advancement of modern regulated, as well as exclusively monetized Pharmaceuticals.

Simply before the all new CBD change there has actually been other plant based compounds with many comparable wellness association’s being checked off for its efficiency by leading Medical Scientists.

Maybe you have listened to tales concerning Turmeric and also it’s phytochemical “curcuminoids” as a growing number of research studies as well as testimonials are disclosed. You can find CBD crystals powder for sale online here.

California law (CA Health & Safety 11362.7) allows a patient to grow their own medicine. Northcutt began investigating different methods to grow medical cannabis. He says he intended to remain legal in all aspects, but in a state that doesn’t respect, follow or even know its own laws, he joined a large number of peaceful, non-violent non-criminal people under fire by their own government for using a natural plant that the voters said was OK. Growing marijuana plants takes many months and he wanted to try one method that yields faster, but in very small comparative amounts.

“It had its up and downs, and I learned as I went,” Northcutt said. “I learned a method called Sea-of-Green, which allows one to grow many small plants in a short period of time (100 days), as opposed to a few large plants over nearly a year. You yield less this way, but the cycles are shorter so I could grow enough medicine to sustain me permanently.”

He says he learned that if you want to grow herbal medicine, you cannot use chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Wanting to maximize the healthy side since that is what it is all about, Northcutt says he began to grow organically, and other patients he had worked with before decided to grow with him and they started a cooperative.

Far from sinister, the cooperative is a common approach used by legal growers in the state of California. But soon after starting it, he was arrested.

“I was pulled over with less than an ounce divided into two jars. Less than an ounce in California is a misdemeanor citation. I openly told the officer I had the cannabis. I showed my medical cannabis cards from the Oakland Cannabis Cooperative and the Los Angeles Cannabis Buyers Cooperative. I am a member if several co-ops.”

According to Northcutt, the officer stated that she thought medical marijuana patients were allowed “to have only one joint” or cigarette in their possession. In truth, with under an ounce he was in violation of no law at all and the matter should have ended right there, but instead he was the victim of a Long Beach Police officer’s ignorance and lack of training.

“She had no idea what she was talking about. I asked for someone form Narcotics who might actually know the law as it pertains to medical marijuana. She told me she was going to pull me out of the car and search me.” Even probable cause seems a hard to swallow concept when considering that Northcutt did everything to comply and was in violation of no laws.

Phil Northcutt, Sergeant of Marines

Phil Northcutt of Long Beach, California was a sergeant of Marines in Iraq, one of the few and the proud who fought in Ramadi and lost many friends.

His sacrifice is not important in his home town apparently, where a judge says he would rather lock Northcutt up in a third world facility called LA County Jail than let him use the only medicine that allows him to battle the demons of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, delivered in full strength from the experiences of fighting a bloody war overseas for his country. No human being should be locked up in LA County Jail, based on the stories I have heard in my life. Humanity is supposed to be a hallmark of Americans, but LA County is where the worst side of corruption continues.

His story begins in 1998, when Phil Northcutt was trying to make a go of it as a music promoter in the LA area.

The real deal: Phil Northcutt in Iraq”In 1998, after finding little satisfaction as a music promoter, I joined the Marine Corps looking for a job that would take me to 3rd world countries and see first-hand the conditions that other humans lived in and maybe to help them in some way. I often thought of Ronald Reagan’s statement about Marines not having to wonder if they made a difference in the world.”

After joining the Marines and graduating from the recruit depot in San Diego, Phil served with Marine Corps Security Forces where he learned Military Operations Urban Terrain, hostage rescue, Special Asset Recovery (nukes), etc.

He said, “We learned about combatting ‘Terrorism’ before it was a daily catch-phrase on CNN.”

Northcutt served with full honor all over the world, and after 4 years got out, moved to Lake Tahoe, and then to Santa Rosa, California, where he enrolled in school to take advantage of the GI Bill. That is when his past came knocking at the door, again.

“Once enrolled, I got a call from the Marines Corps. It was a Presidential Emergency. They needed Marines to participate in the Combat Casualty Replacement Program. They needed volunteers. This was before they recalled the IRR. I volunteered.”

He told the Marines that if they needed gate guards at Camp Pendleton, he wasn’t interested.

“If a Marine could come home because I took his place, then I would do it. It was a one-year non-extendable tour.” Or so he thought it would be.

Courtesy: 2ndbn5thmarines.com/He went to Camp Pendleton and was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. The Marine Corps’ most decorated unit.

“We ended up in Ramadi, Iraq. The Sunni Triangle, in the legendary Al Anbar Province. We saw action nearly every day. Some days we would have several firefights, lasting for hours. After our Dismount Squad Leader was injured in an IED attack, I stood in… for the rest of my tour.”

I can not attest to Iraq but I can tell you that in Afghanistan Marines like Northcutt live a hard life; they are the backbone of our fighting force along with the U.S. Army Security Forces. These are the “Trigger Pullers” as my son Nate would say. He served two combat infantry tours in Iraq around the same time as Northcutt. These are situations that many average Americans could never imagine, Northcutt says.

“I can’t describe the all horrible things I saw, because some of them are literally indescribable. Body parts that looked half ear, half penis. Injured and dead humans. Not just insurgents and Marines. People: men, women, children, animals.”

The stories that a Marine like Northcutt has under his belt are not a matter of choice; they are a matter of assignment. The PTSD that affects so many veterans of war is born from unimaginable things witnessed in war while a person is trying to stay alive and keep their friends alive. He says in some cases it is like a stain you can never wash away.

“We carried a dead insurgent in the trunk of our Humvee for two days. You never forget those smells. I don’t have any idea how many people I killed or maimed.”

Northcutt’s saga is the story of so many Marines and soldiers who have served in Iraq. They are raised in the best American homes, told they are doing the right thing, and then completely dumped on by that same nation and society when the game ends. The United States could work to be more accepting, it should be.

U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 5th MarineRegiment search for insurgents in Ramadi, Iraq.during a mission February ’04 courtesy: DoD.There was not a doubt that these warriors were being viewed as damaged goods. He says that even before the fighting ended, they were a matter of concern “We lost a lot of guys. They sent a Navy Full-bird psych (Navy Captain is the same as a Marine Colonel) out to see us and a lot of us were diagnosed with Chronic PTSD, right there on the spot: Camp Hurricane Point, Ramadi, Iraq.”

For Northcutt, things did not get better. After his platoon’s .50 cal gunner was sent home from Iraq, he took his place.

The .50 caliber machine gun is terrifying if you are simply standing near it when it fires. The receiving end is always an aftermath of destruction. It is so loud it can permanently damage your hearing if you don’t wear ear protection, and it is probably the single most ferocious machine gun used in modern time.

In each military “Humvee” there is a turret. A machine gunner is in that turret whenever the vehicle is on the move. I saw some gunners who had good turrets and some who fought them constantly in Afghanistan. Phil Northcutt’s body would be permanently impacted by a bad turret and a very long firefight.

“I crushed my L4-L5 discs operating the turret which, due to up-armor, was extra massive. The crank was broke and while on a 16 hour patrol of heavy engagements I fell right asleep when I got to my rack.” He says the next morning he had trouble just trying to walk.

At first the doctors wanted to send Sergeant Northcutt to Germany for treatment. His simple answer was “no.” He remembers telling them that he could walk, and he was going back to his unit.

“I knew I could never live with myself if I left. I thumbed a ride back to my unit, hitching on helos. I stayed with my unit and finished my tour. Maybe not the smartest decision, medically, but its a decision that I can live with.”

-End Part One-
-Begin Part Two-
In part one of this special three-part series report, we learned that Marine Corps Sergeant Phillip Northcutt of Long Beach, California, began his enlistment in the Marines in 1998 as the platoon “Honorman” or “Guide” – the one recruit selected from the platoon who works with the drill instructors to help the 100 or so young Marine Corps hopefuls actually become U.S. Marines.

Courtesy: content.answers.comIt is the hardest job in one of the most difficult programs created to train warriors. Marine Corps boot camp lasts for months, it is a grueling experience, and the platoon guide has more responsibility than anyone else in the recruit ranks.

After serving four years, Northcutt was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. He returned to Southern California and attended college on the GI Bill.

Life was great until the Marines called him and told him he was needed to offset the tremendous numbers of casualties, and he agreed as long as this meant he would go to Iraq to actually help other Marines.

He ended up as a .50 caliber machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee at Ramadi, Camp Hurricane. On his last day of combat Northcutt was injured and evacuated from Iraq.

Coming home

When Sgt. Phil Northcutt returned home from Iraq, his one-year non-extendable tour was extended over his battlefield injuries. The combat vet had PTSD and could barely walk. He says he just wanted to go home.

“I had promised my wife one year and no more. She had enough and decided the Marine Corps was my real wife and left me. After much debate, he was finally allowed to go home to Long Beach to await orders.”

Because he was on active duty, Northcutt could not go to the VA for medical care even though it was only a mile from his house. Instead he had to get treatment at Camp Pendleton. Anyone who knows Southern California traffic also knows that the trip between Camp Pendleton and Long Beach is a long and slow journey.

Even worse, is Northcutt’s claim that in spite of all the inconvenient traveling, he never got the treatment he needed.

“Every time I went for some help they gave me more pills. I was so medicated I couldn’t drive myself to my appointments. My wife left me, so I was on my own. I ended up missing many appointments, which were giving me no relief and I began to drink heavily. I stayed in hotels so I could go right to the hotel bar when I woke up. This lasted for about 6 months.”

During this time the PTSD overtook Northcutt, and soon he began racking up speeding tickets, he also crashed his car and motorcycle. That is about the time that Phil visited a new doctor.

Police should know the law

But overreaction is the mark of many police officers and deputy sheriffs in LA and Orange County, and there does often seem to be an anti-Marine Corps bias almost built into the law enforcement community there. I speak from the experience with many run-ins with police as a young Marine in Southern California in the 1980’s. Perhaps some of the overreaction is understandable in such a hardened place for many of these cops, but it seems unlikely that it fits the bill here.

Long Beach, California Police arrestedNorthcutt. Photo: lahomelessblog.orgPhil Northcutt lived in a tough part of California and he was on the waiting list for a concealed weapons permit. Unfortunately it had not arrived yet.

“I always carried an HK P7 9mm pistol. I was on the waiting list for my CCW permit. I informed her that I had a weapon and that I would keep my hands on the wheel where she could see them. She and her training officer just disappeared without a word.”

He says he looked in the rear view mirror, and could see them hiding behind the police car’s doors, crouching. They called for back-up and when it arrived, he remembers the Long Beach officers yelling, “He’s military and he’s got a gun.”

The Marine was surrounded and arrested, in spite of his best effort at disclosing fact and being honest and forthright; qualities not just learned in the Corps, but driven into your soul.

The arrest led to a warrant being served on Phil Northcutt’s residence. The police believed that he was growing marijuana that was packaged for sales… in two mason jars.

“I was staying at my grandmother’s in the guest house. They found my lease and electrical bill for my business, a commercial space in the warehouse district. They also claimed to have found 5 ecstasy tablets. They issued a warrant for my business and found my medical garden.”

The court case

A modern court building in Long Beach that sendsIraq combat vets into illicit, sub-human conditions.  comThe police destroyed Northcutt’s garden and seized or destroyed everything in the warehouse. Detectives would later testify on the stand that he had grown it to sell, and they were sure of it, and that the 400 plants, would yield hundreds and hundreds of pounds.

The truth of the matter is that in this process, every 100 plants would yield about 2 pounds when using the Sea-of-Green technique. Phil Northcutt says the detectives did not even know what Sea-of-Green was, while the techniques can be found in ANY book on growing marijuana. They might after all, have learned that they were wrong, and that doesn’t seem to be the spirit of the operation there.

“So here they were not even knowing the most common methodology used to grow medical cannabis stating that they were experts on the topic, and that that I was obviously selling it,” he added.

An independent medical cannabis expert was brought in to testify and attempt to eliminate some of the ignorance, he said. They even attempted to use DEA guidelines to establish a scientifically based yield for the garden, but the judge would not allow it.

“There was no evidence whatsoever of me selling it. Not even baggies! They later testified that they had NEVER once seen marijuana SOLD in mason jars. The jury acquitted me of all sales charges, all ecstasy charges, all weapons charges.”

In the end, they prosecuted this combat veteran for growing marijuana, which is legal in California. His status as a combat vet who laid everything he had on the line in service of his country meant nothing at all in the eyes of the LA County judge.
-End Part Two-
-Begin Part Three-
In part one of this special three-part series report, we learned that Marine Corps Sergeant Phillip Northcutt of Long Beach, California, began his enlistment in the Marines in 1998 as the platoon “Honorman” or “Guide” – serving with honor during a volunteer one year “recall” tour of duty, and was injured in Iraq. In Part 2 it was revealed that police in Southern California like to arrest Marines, and that they don’t know their own legal system.

This is part 3 in a special series on Marine Corps Sergeant Phil Northcutt, whose life went from Marine combat hero in Iraq, to homeless felon in California, simply because he used the only thing that helped him deal with Post traumatic Stress Disorder: legal medical marijuana.

While the DEA remains on point as anti-marijuana crusaders, Southern California law authorities seem to have it in for the Marines, and there are a great many of us who have suffered the wrath for our association with the eagle, globe and anchor in both LA and Orange Counties. It makes little sense, but is still the case. The marijuana element just aggravates an already volatile relationship.

It is all part of the false rhetoric from people who do not support those that fight for our country, and it extends from the ranks of officers on the streets of cities like Long Beach, straight into the court system. The bottom line is that the LA County Jail is not fit for animals. The ACLU knows it, anyone unfortunate enough to ever have to venture inside knows it, and it sure as hell isn’t a fit place to put a national hero like Phil Northcutt.

He served a year in combat in Iraq as a volunteer. Northcutt asked to return to the Marines after he was honorably discharged. While he was serving in Iraq, this combat was injured.

A “one year extension” did not end at one year because the military does not like to discharge injured veterans a day before they have to, it reduces their financial liability in many cases, saves the feds a few bucks.

In the end Phil Northcutt’s s biggest enemy is ignorance. He was allowed no slack while fighting enemy forces in Iraq as a Sergeant of Marines, but in Long Beach, police officers apparently are not required to know about the laws they enforce. Long Beach PD arrested Phil Northcutt when he had violated no law at all, and they have collectively done their best to ruin his life in the ensuing years and months.

A jail unfit for our nation’s enemies… LA County

“I fought it for 18 months. I spent 11 months in jail. The Marine Corps came to me in jail. ‘Sign here and we won’t prosecute.’ What choice did I have? I signed. They gave me a General Discharge, Under Other Than Honorable Conditions.”

Even for a battle hardened Marine Corps Sergeant, jail was a nightmare in and of itself. He says he couldn’t believe the treatment he witnessed human beings receiving.

He is even hesitant to talk about it for fear of repercussions he would possibly receive if he had to return to the Los Angeles County Jail. Fortunately we have this opportunity to at least document the highly unacceptable conditions there, and if anything ever happens to Phil Northcutt in the LA County Jail we will make it our mission to take those officials to task for the rest of their lives.

“They fed us food not fit for my dog. There was no real medical care. I am scared to detail the abuses I saw because I am on probation and could go back to their custody. I was personally threatened by a sergeant who ‘accidentally’ made me miss a court date for filling out complaint forms describing the inhumane treatment to American Civilian Prisoners.”

Fair treatment for a Marine Corps combat vet? I think not. The atrocities happening daily in California jails are off the radar for the most part, and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and others like them are some of the only ones who care and are trying to make a difference.

The ACLU made this recent statement in regard to LA County Jail and the myriad problems swirling around its operation:

“Civilian complaints about serious misconduct by L.A. police officers are downplayed by investigators, a recent citywide audit found for the third year in a row. Now the ACLU/SC has told the Police Commission, which oversees the department, that ‘three years is enough.’ The ACLU/SC called for civilian investigators or civilian supervisors to take over responsibility for investigation of serious complaints from police officers, who currently investigate themselves.”

Phil Northcutt’s trial lasted several days over a two week period as court dragged on. He says he was moved to holding cell after holding cell.

“They were packed with men. Cells made for 16 men had 50 in them with no water or food. I was shocked. I treated Iraqi detainees better than this and they had killed, or tried to kill, American troops.”

He says they kept saying, “Take the deal, then this will all end. You don’t want to go to trial. Just take the deal.”

As he went through the motions of the California justice system, he says he was subjected to sleep deprivation and persuasion, “just like I had been schooled about in the Marine Corps.”

Ongoing PTSD nightmare

Those who know people with PTSD are probably aware that many of these unfortunate sufferers deal with flashbacks and nightmares. Phil Northcutt survived one firefight after another in Iraq, but his psychological trauma is not strictly related to the battlefield.

The bars of an LA County Jail cell, courtesy: ACLU”I suffer from PTSD. I have flashbacks not just from the war but from my incarceration. I never really knew what a flashback was. Now I do. Its a flood of emotion, like fear and anxiety, panic, that results from a single memory that just randomly pops into my head. Its like one long nightmare that won’t end. Now my two separate nightmares, (War/Jail) just commingle into one.”

When he emerged from the nightmare of jail, Phil Northcutt was homeless.

“My girlfriend, and I had a son together while I was incarcerated. Upon my release she returned to California from Oklahoma. We had nowhere to go. We stayed at hotels and on friends floors or couches. We had no money for food and had to borrow from everyone who would talk to us. It was so humiliating. Here my friends had just seen me as a Sergeant of Marines, who some considered a hero. A man who owned his own screenprinting business. My friends and family were so proud of me.”

As a homeless, unemployed, convicted felon, Northcutt’s own 15-year old daughter won’t even speak to him. He says he wanted to just kill himself. “The only thing that kept me from doing it was knowing that no one would look out for my family. How would they eat? Where would they sleep?”

After 2 months on the streets, Phil got a job with a screenprinting company who had previously hired him as a print consultant.

“They knew my situation and hired me anyways. Like many Californians, they support medical marijuana and can’t understand why they would mess with someone like me.

So now, I work for about 1/3 of what I would usually make.”

Now this former Marine can barely pay his bills. He lives with his family in a friend’s studio apartment who is out of town. The problems working with the military continue.

“I have to miss work to go to the VA for my medical appointments so I lose money by going to my doctor. Then there’s the court appearances and probation. I have to test for drugs even though the only drug I’ve ever been convicted of anything for is medical cannabis. They tell me at 8pm if I’m testing the next day. I miss work again. My boss is really bummed because I’m never there. I’m bummed because I wouldn’t be making enough even if I was there. I missed an appointment this week because I didn’t have the bus money.”

Drug laws based on bad intelligence

Now the judge in Long Beach might put him back in jail for continuing the one medication that actually helps PTSD combat vets: medical marijuana, a simple natural plant that God put on the earth for some reason.

Dr. Phil Leveque of Molalla, Oregon, a combat vet from WWII who has seen over 4,000 medical marijuana patients with many PTSD sufferers in the mix, says the VA keeps causing PTSD veterans to become addicted to pharmaceutical drugs that are “legal” yet deadly. As Northcutt said, they fill veterans with this legal poison and many veterans advocates say prescribing drugs mindlessly to people who don’t need them and then in need of treating addiction – borders on being criminal.

Marine Sgt. Phil Northcutt, shown in Ramadi, Iraq, deserves better.A small amount of marijuana has a minimal effect on a person in the larger sense, but it has the ability to reduce anxiety. Leveque says it is preposterous that marijuana is demonized endlessly because “it makes you feel good. What is wrong with feeling good?” he asks.

But somehow, some way, the U.S. government has been able to turn this very simple herb that has literally never killed a single person, and has been used medically for over 4,000 years, into something that place in a category with heroin and meth. Young people laugh at the laws and millions defy the same laws on a daily basis, while hundreds of thousands now smoke it legally for medical use.

And still the federal government refuses to budge, and the victims are good people like Phil Northcutt, former Sergeant of Marines, whom I am very proud to know. Like all former Marines, my belief is that he must continue to march forward, perhaps an attorney who reads this in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area will send us an email and take this case so Phil can get on with his life, that sounds like a good plan.

“I’m just tired. I’ve been fighting non-stop since 2004. I’m so fatigued I can’t stand it anymore. I just want some peace in my life. I just want to know I can take care of my family and that they don’t have to worry about where they’ll live or will we have money for food.”

Stories like Marine Sergeant Phil Northcutt’s need to be told, and antiquated laws and jails need to be torn down and rethought and when appropriate, rebuilt. Treating even criminals with decency is our obligation, but subjecting combat veterans to humiliation and needless punishments and brutality that conflict with their doctor’s orders is madness.

The growing number of war traumatized combat veterans can only be viewed as an undeniable fact in this country, and the positive interaction between PTSD and medical marijuana is another undeniable fact. We should not make criminals out of good, honorable people who have something to offer the world. Phil Northcutt agrees.

“I never asked for any of this. I was just trying to do the right thing. It makes me wish I had never gone to this bogus war.”

Marines are trained to be killers, that is true, and they are the best that have ever existed. But the discipline that is so legendary with respect to the Corps is often overlooked, and that is a mistake. That very discipline can be harnessed in the PTSD process, but only if we can keep the cops and politicians off the backs of these men and give them time to heal. If marijuana helps them, then for God’s sake give it to them. We need to those extra steps to take care of these warriors when they return. I don’t think it was supposed to go this way for our country, Phil Northcutt’s service to his nation should mean more.

This is not the first time Salem-News.com has written about Iraq combat Marines and medical marijuana. You might want to check out this story from June 11th, 2007: Marine Combat Vet Discusses Iraq, PTSD and Medical Marijuana. It is time the anti-marijuana crusaders own up to the fact that they are an enemy of today’s PTSD stricken combat vet.

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