This Veterans Day we will pay tribute to our heroes who have served in the military. It will be marked by marching bands and parades, flags flying high atop city buildings and over neighborhood front porches. And as you remember what our veterans have done for us, ask yourself what we can do for them.
Very few people, including those serving in the military today, know that veterans are twice as likely to die from ALS - the deadly disease that took the life of baseball legend Lou Gehrig and which today is known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
We don't know why vets are more likely to develop ALS. But we do know that the disease takes the strongest among us - our military heroes - and robs them of the ability to walk, move their arms, talk, eat and even breathe on their own. They are isolated and awake, alive with the knowledge that they are trapped inside a body they no longer can control. And as the disease progresses, there is little they can do, for there is no treatment for ALS, and it is fatal in an average of just two to five years.
It is the cruelest of ironies: People who fought to defend an entire nation no longer able to even lift a finger in their own defense against this horrific disease.
I have lost two family members to this horrible disease. I have a son, Gregory Brumann, in the Navy; have several family members that have served in the military and am concerned about our heroes. It has only been a little more than two years since I lost my father. I will never forget his pain and suffering, and wondering why and how did he contract this disease. I have continued attending the ALSA Conferences, teleconferences and this year participating the annual Health Fair in Ketchikan to offer information about ALS. Join me with many others across the nation, remembering all of our veterans, especially those with ALS.
So what can you do to help this Veterans Day? You can urge our elected officials to support funding for ALS research at the Department of Defense so we can learn why the disease is stealing our heroes and take action to protect them. Recently, both Congress and the Veterans Affairs have supported ALS research and provided benefits to veterans with the disease. But more must be done. After all, no veteran should ever be left behind in the war against ALS. Many thanks to Sen. Ted Stevens, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young for their support in sponsoring the recent bills that were passed recently. Gov. Sarah Palin also issued a proclamation earlier this year declaring May as ALS Awareness Month. Along with my sister, Melody, we carried the proclamation to Washington, D.C., to present at the National Conference.
To learn how you can support our veterans, go to www.alsa.org/policy and join the ALS Association in the war against Lou Gehrig's disease.
Linda Teal-Kreider is a Ketchikan and former Juneau resident.