I watched in 2011 as Dr. Christian Thurstone, my relatively quiet and shy (c’mon, I’m comparing him to me) psychiatrist-scientist-husband (and the man whose website you’re reading) wrestled with the news of mental health problems among active-duty and discharged American military service members.
I watched as his sadness turned to anger at the insidious and relentless efforts of a burgeoning industry built on profits derived from addiction to push marijuana use as “medicine” to veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and profound mental health problems exacerbated by the drug. (What a great sales and marketing strategy, right? Pick off the vulnerable and easily manipulated, and drape yourself in the American flag and speech rights as you do. Works like a charm.)
I watched in 2012 as he signed the papers and took the oath that commissioned him a major in the U.S. Army Reserve’s 807th Medical Command, the only psychiatrist to join any branch of our nation’s military that year. “I can’t know what I do and not do this,” he told me during a private moment I’m happy for the rest of the world to know about now.
I watched the following year when my husband, at age 43, earned the No. 1 score and a commendation for physical fitness and performance from among the hundreds of officers in training with him (“Dr. Thurstone should worry a lot less about marijuana users,” one clearly troubled and pot-addled college student wrote to us during that time through this website. “Looks like he runs too much and has anorexia.”). I have giggled nervously many times about his new proficiency with guns I fervently hope and pray he never uses — weapons that will never cross the threshold of our home.
Together, Dr. T and I struggle sometimes to explain to our children why we’re “all in this together” when we often don’t understand what “this” actually means once the circle of our discussions is expanded to include our country’s lawmakers. But make no mistake: our little band of four in Denver is clear about Dr. T’s calling and mission to help people who have served our country — and the best interests of many other nations — have access to the world’s best mental healthcare. May they rise above the lies of excess, junk science, junkier “journalism” and drug-induced recreation far too many of us are falling for back home.
So, U.S. Army, I am now counting on you as I have never counted on you before — out of my own sheer ignorance about all you really do to serve and protect. Please forgive me for that — and please, please keep a special watch over my husband, who departed today for three months of service in the Middle East.
My sincere thanks.
U.S. Gen. of the Thurstone Homefront, Christine Tatum
Christine Tatum is a veteran journalist, and you can read more about her here. Dr. Christian Thurstone welcomes hearing from you and will provide insights about mental healthcare and the military in coming weeks.