FEATURE: Tatum Davidson-Lohse

I decided to go vegan two years ago, but it didn't exactly stick. I come from a West Indian family where I had people telling me that I am basically abandoning my culture if I decide to no longer eat meat. After six months of the back and forth and the jokes, I went back to eating fish and then chicken and eventually everything else. I felt so guilty every single time because I knew why I wanted to become a vegan in the first place, so in December of 2015, I decided that I wanted to be the voice for those that have none. I decided to give it another try and I didn't care what my family had to say about it and have even surprised everyone because I cook the same Caribbean dishes with vegan meat substitutes and they love it just the same. I have transitioned every aspect of my life and stopped using anything with animal products or anything that has been tested on animals.

The hardest hurdle being vegan has been from my battle buddies and leadership in the US Army. I constantly get made fun of for my decision to go vegan...they can't fathom why anyone would ever want to stop eating meat. When I explain that it's for the animals they laugh. In order for my lifestyle to be accommodated I had to find a religion that supported it in order for them to provide some kind of meals for me. When they did, it was always vegetarian...not vegan...so most drill weekends I would have to bring a cooler with food and go to my car and eat. I am a part of an organization that has no intention of changing anytime soon and I truly feel like it is a losing battle but I still try.

It has honestly been my vegan support groups that have gotten me this far; I follow Black Vegans rock, Vegans United, Vegan ammunition & we are vegan for life just to name a view.....it has gotten to the point where I have no friends on fb besides my immediate family because I am tired of seeing people posting meat and tagging me in it just to bother me.

Some may ask: how do you negotiate being vegan while being in the military? To be honest it is a huge contradiction for me....when I first joined back in 2007 I felt a little iffy about it because I was a Christian at the time and now, 10 years later now, I am vegan and Buddhist. I am definitely against the violence that the military represents. This is not knocking anyone that chooses to stay in the military to fight for this great country but as for me? I am actually getting out completely in 2018 because it conflicts with my beliefs! Not to mention the daily struggle of being a vegan in the military. It's just NOT conducive for the life that I want to live.