Jennifer Emswiler 15” x 20” • Acrylic on Canvas

Jennifer Emswiler
15” x 20” • Acrylic on Canvas

After reading what Brian wrote about his experiences concerning the unfortunate side effects of Mefloquine, the drug used for Malaria prevention, I felt the issues were invasive and overpowering, much like a kudzu vine. Introduced in the US as erosion prevention, kudzu quickly became an invasive species that causes destruction to whatever it grows near. As it thrives, all else around it is deprived of what it needs. Like Kudzu, Mefloquine can potentially have side effects that could impact the overall mental health and well-being of a person. The horrors of war and the lack of needed support can truly add fuel to the already raging fire within. It is our turn to actually support our troops by listening and trying to be a part of the changes that need to happen.

Based on the experiences of Brian Maguire

Mefloquine Toxicity
by Brian Maguire

I was thrown out of my house when I was 18 and still in high school. My girlfriend’s parents let me live with them until I graduated, and the very next day, my girlfriend broke up with me and my stuff was in garbage bags in the front yard. I slept at a friend’s house for a few months and watched as my recently graduated friends got addicted to various drugs, started committing petty crimes to feed those addictions, and inevitably ended up in prison. I saw my future and the writing on the wall, and it consisted of either death or prison, and nothing else. I contacted all 4 branches of the military, and it was the Marine recruiter who called me first. I was on my way to becoming a United States Marine.

Luck of the draw had my unit the nextslated to go to the Mediterranean, for a “booze cruise”, before 9/11 happened. Because of this rotation, we were some of the first Americans to set foot in Afghanistan for our new “Global War on Terror” instead. Despite what people may think about the massive power of the United States military, which is certainly true, there seemed to be a lack of water, food, and medicine. In fact, while the “terrorists” I guarded were given three meals and three bottles of water a day, myself and my fellow Marines were given one meal and one bottle of water a day. What I did not find out until 20 years of pure hell later, was that the same people who hadn’t allocated enough food or water for our illegal invasion, also hadn’t allocated enough malaria pills for us to take for the duration of our deployment. So after a few months, we were switched to a different malaria medication in the middle of operations, and so would begin my descent into complete self destruction.

What if I told you that the “New York Times” wrote an article in 1989 about the dangers of specific malaria drugs being given to people who travel overseas, and it was the recommendation of the international medical community that ALL NATIONS stop prescribing this drug? What if I told you that the nations of Great Britain and Canada have recently admitted and publicly apologized for continuing to prescribe those same specific malaria pills to their combat troops despite knowing the permanent and debilitating side effects? Now what if I told you that the great and powerful nation of the United States has stopped prescribing that medication, but has made absolutely no acknowledgement of what the New York Times already knew over 30 years ago? Personally, it kind of stings!

From the moment I was honorably discharged and back home, I knew I wasn’t ok. The Marine Corps discipline and bearing that had me hold my fire while being shot at so I didn’t give away our position, did not exist in the world of working fast food and going to community college. The Marines have all kinds of catch phrases: “Pain is weakness leaving the body” (I must be really weak), “Embrace the suck” (the more shitty it is the more you have to lie to yourself that it’s ok), “Get the sand out of your clit” (stop being a pussy/faggot/bitch) and so on. It’s a mentality they literally beat into you, that doing anything other than pressing forward, regardless of circumstances, is weakness that will get others killed, and therefore must be dealt with immediate violence and aggression, until you understand that the only acceptable things are, violence and aggression. Now immerse yourself in this world for four years, with other young men constantly trying to outdo one another in terms of violence and aggression.

I don’t know why, but after almost dying multiple times, watching my friends be blown up, and then getting phone calls that the men I loved and served with were still dying overseas while I’m sitting back at home, while simultaneously being called a liar at the VA and given no understanding, compassion, or help, I stopped holding back. How much is PTSD and how much is from the malaria pills poisoning my brain, and how much is from a natural human reaction of having to live in conditions not fit for a donkey? I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you because the VA doesn’t want to know. My family doesn’t believe any of it. My mother called me a “barbarian”. My wife and children think I am terrifying and crazy.
They are all right. And they don’t want to know, because they know they share the blame. If I am guilty and deserve to suffer, so do all of you.