You might say that Annie King Garat was born into the military.
“My great uncle was a Marine,” she began. “My mother is Bavarian, her grandfather served in the Austrian Army. My father was from West Virginia and had very little options other than mining. Going into the military is common in that part of the country. I have four brothers, two were in the military – my second oldest brother was in the German military, another was a Marine – he’s why I joined the Marine Corp.”
Garat was born in 1979 at Fort Riley in Kansas, but lived around the world as the child of a soldier. She became a Marine in 1998, giving up a college scholarship and a career in basketball.
“I joined to get away from my family and the situation I was in,” she shared. “I had already been raped twice before I was a teenager.”
The first time she was raped at 11 years-old, the family was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany.
“A group of teen boys held me down while one of them raped me. I played soccer with one of them,” she said. “I already felt like I was nobody, due to the constant traveling with the military, and didn’t feel it was worth it to file charges. I was told nothing would be done anyway. There’s no justice system, there’s only a legal system.”
The second time, she alleges, she was raped was by her former stepfather.
“David Eugene Dennis raped me,” she claimed. “I can say his name now, for years I couldn’t. He started grooming me when I was six with inappropriate touching, then raped me when I was 12. We reported it, but nothing was done. After my mom divorced him, he was in another relationship and raped that woman’s adolescent daughter – then, he went to prison for about 10 years.”
While serving in the Marines during her Alpha-school, or trade school, in Pensacola, Florida, Garat said she was sexually assaulted by a non-commissioned officer, off-base at a hotel room party.
“He was a Sergeant, I was a Private First Class – he was also in training,” she explained. “He followed me into the bathroom and assaulted me. I reported it, he was Court Marshalled and spent some time in the Brig – maybe a year or less, for adding to my lifetime of PTSD. I never even knew his first name – we only go by last names in the corp.”
Two years later, she was sexually battered along with some other women by a Command Sergeant Major, while on active duty in Okinawa.
“I didn’t press charges, personally – it was up to the commanding officer after we reported it to him,” she explained. “They made him go away, it was a career ender – he was relieved of duty. Again, I didn’t really know what happened to him – we aren’t allowed to report or know the outcomes in the military. Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to do or die.”
According to an article in the Daily Beast (January 2019), via a poll, two-thirds of women in the U.S. military stated they had been sexually harassed or assaulted while serving. By comparison, a study commissioned in 2015 by the Defense Department reported that a mere 27 percent of women had had endured abuse.
The reason stated for the discrepancy is the fact that many women simply do not tell their commanding officers for a number of reasons, including shame, intimidation, or fear of not being promoted – eerily similar reasoning to civilian sexual assaults in the workplace.
“I could have dropped out, but I stayed in, and went on to California for more training,” she said. “I eventually became what they call a ‘chaser,’ we chase our own. We handcuff our own and take them to the brig. I became a boat rocker – I rocked the boat.”
Cannabis: Both Illicit and Common
In Bavaria she remembers gathering magic mushrooms in the forest. But, the first time she tried cannabis her family was living in Colorado and visiting family in Tennessee.
My older brother and a cousin passed me a joint. We were hanging out in the garage. I had no hesitation, it was lovely and funny. I remember giggling and feeling joyful,” she remembered.
A woman she was close to – an adopted aunt, came out and scolded them, but Garat said it was in jest.
“I was never against cannabis, it was in our culture,” she continued. “My boyfriend and his friend were known as Cheech & Chong, but I was an athlete and didn’t partake regularly – didn’t want to risk my game.”
Garat was married twice and has two children. Both of her husbands were in the military; one was a Marines, the other in the Air Force – both were drinkers with anger issues.
“Drinking is common in the military – it’s all they have that’s legal for self-medicating,” she said. “Then, they add pills and it makes it worse.”
She had always used cannabis, but had to keep it a secret.
“We lived on the base and had to be discreet,” she said. “There were other women, service members and marines who smoked, but everyone hid their use. I was medicating with other moms – we had our little tribe. A lot of them were in the church. Cannabis definitely united everyone.”
Garat received an honorable discharge in 2005 and left the Marines, but carried the trauma of a lifetime of abuse with her. In 2011 she had relocated to Southern California, and was still smoking cannabis, but didn’t yet understand it as remedy. By 2014 she was taking many prescription medications, while drinking alcohol to deal with PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is a mental health condition, triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety.
Psychiatrist, Sue Sisley, just concluded the first triple-blinded study on cannabis and help for Veterans with PTSD, with results due later this year.
CEO and Founder of Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Eric Goepel, was quoted in an article in Forbes at the conclusion of Sisley’s study as stating, “Current research supports the potential efficacy of cannabis in dozens of different applications, all of which could have direct positive impacts on overall veteran health. Whether for pain relief, as a sleep aid, or for help in overcoming stress and anxiety, so many veterans find relief in cannabis because it provides an alternative way to manage their conditions far better than a slew of toxic pharmaceuticals.”
Soldier’s Suicide Kit
They call the bevy of pharmaceuticals given to soldiers a “Suicide Kit,” with a laundry list of psychotropic medications prescribed in epidemic proportions. Add alcohol, and the kit becomes dangerous.
“I was still drinking alcohol when I left the corp. It helped with the PTSD. I don’t feel I abused alcohol, but the pills took me over the edge and I accidently overdosed,” she shared.
Though Garat said she didn’t drink an unusual amount of alcohol – maybe a half a beer, the combination of prescribed Flexeril, Ambien, Zoloft, and Tylenol with Codeine in her system was too much for her body to handle.
The father of one of her children used the overdose, as well as her cannabis use, to take one child away. After a long courtroom struggle, her kids are with her and she is a full-fledged cannabis patient in California.
“Ironically, when I was in the military, one of my positions was being a Substance Abuse Control Officer, and a Urinalysis Program Coordinator – the ones who do the pee tests,” she laughed. “I went from being an honorably discharged Marine, to being told I was a criminal – taking my child away – to finally being accepted as a cannabis patient.”
A female psychiatrist advised she get a medical cannabis card. The doctor was from Israel, where cannabis has been legal and understood as medicine for many years.
“Today, everyone from my VA treatment team, to my therapist, to my medical doctor, approve of my cannabis use,” she said. “There’s education available now we just didn’t have before.”
After the overdose she increased her cannabis intake and stopped all the medications.
“I upped my game by ingesting medibles, taking tinctures, vaping and burning flower – you name it,” she laughed. “Cold-turkey, no negative side effects. Actually, the only negative side effects were consequences from my doctor, and having to listen to their bullshit, because they didn’t understand that ingesting and smoking was dealing with the withdrawal symptoms.”
The analgesic effects of cannabis have been said to quell the pain and body discomforts of withdrawal from pain killers and more, giving a smoother transition from pharmaceuticals to plant-based remedies.
“I’m just lucky I was never able to take the Oxy they gave me. It made me sick,” she surmised. “That probably would have been harder. But, the lack of education on what I was doing was harsh – everyone gave me grief for my cannabis use. I had to be a warrior on many levels – defending myself to my family, the military and doctors.”
Quiet No More
Garat is currently being counseled by a female therapist at the Long Beach VA, Women’s Mental Health Center, in Los Angeles County; with a recommendation from the Vet Center (link below).
“I’m using my experiences to help others now,” she proclaimed. “I’m not going to be quiet about it. As a spiritual being, I’m learning to be open every day. Being open and honest about what I’ve been through helps me and others to heal.”
Garat received her Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Human Services with a focus on the non-profit sector; and is now working toward her Masters degree in Social Work, with a concentration on non-profit management.
She has become an outspoken former Marine, advocating for cannabis as remedy, and lending comfort and support to the many other women in the military who were raped and abused.
“You are not alone, and guess what? You won’t be,” she concluded. “I stopped going to organized church because of the judgements, due to my own personal path and experiences.”
Quoting the Bible, Garat waxes poetic, siting Matthew 18:20, “’For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’ God doesn’t judge or demand you be in a crowded room and tithe. You are loved. You have purpose. Let your message help others. It makes the world a kinder place – even with all the pain.”
Following are links to organizations offering support to those abused in service:
USN Veteran Denise Nelson and Women Veterans Community Hub
Lupe Gonzalez—Lady Veterans Project