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To The Veterans…

On Veterans Day, I want to show love for all my military veteran friends, family, colleagues… the people who’ve served in the United States Armed Forces by sharing a bit about my own upbringing and how growing up as a military kid has shaped our internal philosophies at CANiVISION.

Growing up an Army brat was different.

In fact, I credit my unorthodox upbringing to the unique way I approach life in every way.

It’s hard to quantify ‘how’ things were different, but military kids get it. Especially those of us who lived on bases overseas…

I wasborn at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. My grandfather was a retired Army veteran and access to military hospitals and other amenities was just part of our daily life. Of course, my older sister and I really didn’t know any other way of living. It just was our reality.

My mother married my stepfather, who was also in the Army, when I was 4. He was given orders to ship out to Germany and we followed him out to Munich less than a year later. We’d stay there for 3 years before moving to Augsburg for another 2 and eventually moving back to Virginia at 10 years old; the summer before I’d start 5th grade.

Being a kid on a military base in a foreign country meant learning, interacting, and growing with others from all over the world and just making it work. We were black, white, Asian, Latinx, and everything in between. Some of my fondest memories came from adventures with my two best friends of the era: Tyson, who was White, and Darran- who was Black.

Both of which I’ve reconnected with years later and we still have the same respect for one another, even after decades of no contact.

Sure, like any other childhood environment, there was bullying to a certain extent- always some sort of singling out for people who didn’t fit into the ‘culture’ established on a particular base. However, I don’t remember any prejudice pointed my way or vice-versa because of race, color, or creed until returning Stateside.

It was tough back on the mainland…

Rural Virginia, where I’d spend the next seven years of my life, is where I learned first-hand what racism really was. I also learned education tied to American history was regional.

Confederate generals and high-ranking soldiers were lionized. Many of them had schools and buildings named after them. Rebel flags were proudly flown everywhere from your fellow classmates’ favorite t-shirts and belt buckles to outside the local public library.

Didn’t these traitors lose that war?

Our state textbooks lightly grazed over the negative effects of slavery. Socially, The American Civil War was often referred to as “the war of northern aggression”. Yet, nobody (Black OR White) was really up-in-arms about the state of things. We all just accepted it as “the way things are”.

This never sat well with me.

Approaching high school graduation, I faced the limits of upward mobility for black people from my region.

These were the most common options for black males:

  1. Try to work your way up from the local general store, topping out somewhere between $30-$40K salary or maybe a bit more if you moved to one of the neighboring cities.
  2. Join the drug game. Either as a dealer or fiend- it was an easy option…
  3. Go to war… Join the military. Recruitment was heavy in our area and offered as “a way out” and a way to live “a more meaningful life”.

I actually had the 4th choice many of my peers would never get. An opportunity to move the fuck out of the boondocks and experience life outside of this neo-confederate bubble.

I had become a standout athlete and the first Division 1 athlete to emerge from the area on a full-paid football scholarship. I promptly chose to continue my education in the absolute ‘racial utopia’ of Chicago.

lololololol…

As funny as it is on the surface that it was what I actually thought after moving and living there, it was a HUGE step up from where I had come from. Smoking weed in college opened up my social network to folks that didn’t look or think like me. It taught me empathy and brought me back to the mindset we all had back in Germany: everybody’s input counts.

As messed up of a relationship my stepfather and I developed, I’ll always respect his decision to serve something bigger than he was.

This is the very mindset we bring to the Cannabis Community at CANiVISION.

EVERYBODY matters.

ALL points of view.

The critique received is JUST as important as the praise.

I’ll always credit my structured upbringing in a military family to the way I approach most everything in life. Though I wouldn’t serve in the military myself and know that life’s not for everyone, serving a greater cause… acknowledging a purpose greater than self is a life worth living.

Respecting (not necessarily agreeing with) ALL points of view, no matter how different they might be, is paramount to growth; personally and universally as an industry.

Veterans in our industry are everywhere. Executives, business owners, investors, activists, budtenders, patients, and consumers alike.

Whatever your reasons were… I want to say emphatically, THANK YOU.

The world is a better place for your service.

Enjoy!

Originally published at https://ricolamitte.medium.com on November 11, 2020.


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