This is it.
The last opportunity to appeal to the Arizona Board of Regents to do the right thing by our Nation's Veterans.
Here is my statement to them, which I will be reading directly to them in person this morning:
My name is Ricardo Pereyda.
As an MP, I was deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 from 2004, to 2005 where I performed missions of a wide variety. I patrolled the city of Baghdad and its surrounding areas daily, completing numerous combat missions under extremely hazardous conditions. Living under those conditions day and night for a year, I became accustomed to the realities of war. The violent, permanent nature of combat is not something one forgets, it stays with you. The stigma surrounding post-traumatic stress made me feel as though I could not approach my chain of command to let them know about the difficulties I was experiencing. Internalizing these feelings, my struggle began to manifest itself in the form of inexplicable fits of rage, intense panic attacks, insomnia, and an emotional numbness that is impossible to describe. In February 2006 I was diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress by the Army and VA. Before I knew it I had been labeled “non-deployable,” and was facing a long painful transition into “civilized society” as “damaged goods.” During the years immediately following my return from Iraq my symptoms began to worsen. My medicine cabinet rivaled the supplies of an emergency room, and I went through nearly every conventional treatment program the Tucson VA had to offer, even staying in their psychiatric ward when things got too heavy.
Desperate for something to invest myself in, I applied for enrollment at the University of Arizona in 2009. My application was accepted and I began classes under the G.I. Bill in the spring of 2010. Finally, I was able to reconnect with the world around me. I became heavily involved with the U of A’s Student Veterans Organization where I helped plan, implement and track the student-first model of veteran reintegration that the school is nationally known for. Also, I led a project for three years in the U of A’s Student Union expanding a permanent memorial to our nation’s fallen service members — adding 5 bronze art pieces, 4 plaques, and a large quote which reads, "To All Who Put Themselves In Harm’s Way — Then, Now, Always.” This and much more was achieved while I medicated with cannabis, the only medicine that really worked for me. Before I began to medicate with cannabis I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to overcome the debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Now, I’m able to be of service to my brothers and sisters who are facing similar issues in their transitions.
Dr. Suzanne Sisley is a highly respected clinician, faculty member, and researcher at The University of Arizona. She is also the Principle Investigator of proposed research intended to shed light on how cannabis works to alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress. In June she was informed her contracts at the school would not be renewed, and in July the U of A denied her appeal for reinstatement without providing an explanation. It appears Dr. Sisley was fired for attempting to conduct controversial research that caused a political backlash from our hyper-conservative state lawmakers. Our nation's Veterans are committing suicide at astonishing rates — nearly one per hour — and so-called leaders in Arizona are intentionally blocking life saving research. What a shameful situation.
I challenge this Board to live up to your Mission and Vision statements. Veterans just like me are killing themselves every day. Please, find a home at Arizona State University for this critical study.