Patrick Thibeault's first book, My Journey as a Combat Medic: From

Desert Storm to Operation Enduring Freedom

, chronicles a career of the most

hardcore variety: 20 years of service and two combat tours as an airborne Army

medic.

The book is a swift read with first-hand, succinct

observations on the type of human duality people face in war, the realities of

intense physical and mental training tied to soldiering and what it means to

achieve victory in Afghanistan. He also opens up about the burning rage of

post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly the kind "that makes you want

to rip someone in half."

He warns the ignorant: Don't ever ask a vet if they've

killed someone.

NUVO caught up with Thibeault via email.

NUVO: Are you familiar

with congressional efforts to establish a cutoff date for Gulf War Illness

claims? Any thoughts?

Thibeault : One thought: Agent Orange. The government denied the

effects of the defoliant used in the Vietnam War until plenty of veterans died

off. The same thing is happening with GWS and Congress. The time line is

classic. The government denied Agent Orange for some 20 years and the effects

of it. They are playing the same game with GWS veterans. I have read the

specific diseases that a combat veteran has to have in order to

"qualify" for GWS and most of them are very rare diseases. As far as

a time line is concerned, that is just plain bullshit; there is no specific

etiology of GWS of when the veteran exhibits symptoms. Typically when a veteran

with GWS does exhibit symptoms, the medical providers at the VA are not trained

to really handle this and they diagnose said conditions as something else. If

they do it on purpose or not, I cannot say, but would it make sense for the

same organization to diagnose you as having GWS who is also responsible to

denying veteran service-connected claims. I might have a bit of paranoia in me

when I say this, but the answer is "No."The bottom line about a cutoff date: Most veterans with GWS

will have already died off, be too exhausted both mentally and physically and

the VA hospital that determines if they have GWS will deny it anyway.

NUVO: What was the

process of writing the book like for you?

Thibeault : This was my first book.

Originally I wrote about everything — and I mean everything — from

when I was born, remembering urinating on the doctor that assisted in my birth,

to the last day of my military career. It was long and cumbersome. Then I

remembered the title of the book: My Journey as a Combat Medic: From Desert

Storm to Operation Enduring Freedom.I had to cut out a lot of material that I might have found interesting

but that had nothing to do with the story. The lady who edited my book (Candace

Denning of IBJ Book Publishing) was very helpful in this. She was the one who

decided to make each chapter unique and about a special subject such as

parachuting, Gulf War, PTSD, etc. After we had the skeletal framework,

everything started coming together. I would write when I was motivated to

write. I took my time and I did many, many re-writes until I could read the

story and feel that I had the gotten the exact point I wanted to get across.

NUVO: What were the

challenges, the highlights?

Thibeault : Good question. The

challenge for me was to write about PTSD. Originally I was not going to open up

about my issues and keep them private, but it was sitting there underneath the

surface waiting to explode as I wrote. I would be lying to myself and to the

reader if I did not write about PTSD. It was the highlight for me also; I felt

so much better after expressing how I feel.

NUVO: How much

remains unsaid?

Thibeault : I pretty much said

everything that I felt needed to be said in My Journey as a Combat Medic. The

intention of the book was not to bash the military or society or war in

general, but really to give the perspective from one combat medicÃ*s point of

view.

NUVO: How are you

doing health-wise these days?What

regimen keeps in you at the optimum performance level?

Thibeault : Currently, I am not at

my optimum level of performance.Mentally with PTSD it is a struggle every day. Every day. I am not a big

fan of counseling as you have read in the book, so I just take my medications.

There are some days when I want to say the heck with it all and go live in the

mountains out west in survival mode and not have to interact with society.In order to obtain optimum performance

there has to be a balance between energy and rest.I believe in the yin and yang in life.The mid-ground is optimal.

NUVO: What do you

think of efforts to legalize marijuana to treat PTSD and GWI

Thibeault : I have mixed feelings

about marijuana. If a veteran wants to smoke weed to help deal with PTSD and

GWI, then more power to him or her. It's a joke that marijuana is illegal and

tobacco is legal. To me both are equally harmful to the body and both can help

the body.

I don't smoke either way. I can see how weed can help with

anxiety and, in some cases, it is probably better than conventional treatments

available. But, on the other hand, people use their disease as a crutch for

sympathy. Not everyone, surely, and some just want to smoke weed regardless of

the reason.

To me the underlying issue regarding PTSD is the veteranÃ*s

attitude. Nothing is worse than a glass-half-empty attitude in dealing with

PTSD regardless of what therapy, i.e. meds, weed or counseling. GWI is

different, of course. It is a physical disease, which manifests itself

physically.As medical provider in

my own right (nurse practitioner) I personally would not prescribe marijuana if

it was legal to prescribe because I am not a mental health care specialist.

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