A New Battlefield…


Raise your right hand and repeat after me: I (name) do solemnly swear…

Throughout history this oath has been repeated time and time again by everyone with the title “Veteran”. An oath to stand side by side with our brethren during times if conflict and peace. We sacrifice family, memories, our bodies and often our lives… for our nation. More importantly for each other, our brothers and sisters in arms.

After our service, whether a term or a career, we hope our service and sacrifices will be rewarded with a good long life. A life we create with the rights and privileges our nation guarantees, through our sacrifices.

What then, when something threatens the life we planned? We turn to the organizations charged with meeting our needs. For the most part they do, however there is always room for improvement. One such threat that eludes resolution is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. A disease without cure or effective treatments, that strikes veterans significantly more often than non-veterans.

So elusive is ALS that the reason or cause of the exponential rate of affliction of veterans escapes all experts. The current treatment plan for ALS patients is and has been palliative in nature. If I may be blunt, this simply means go home and die comfortably.

This is unacceptable! We do not surrender, we do not turn and run. We charge forward, facing the enemy head on, until all we have left is hand to hand combat. With ALS we are in a fight for our lives, engaged in combat with our own bodies and minds.
A new battlefield, a battlefield wrought with landmines that take limbs as if they were actually blown off. The mental toll building every day as our body shuts down, until our mind is all we are left in control of. This is not the life we hoped for.

This new battlefield is an unfamiliar landscape, one comprised of bureaucracy, obstacles and uncertainty. We grapple with an enigmatic enemy within, while also battling institutions charged with helping us. Navigating a maze of fractured institutions much like being sent outside the wire without the coordinates to the target or the necessary weapons to execute the mission.

The sad and disappointing aspect of this new war is that we know there is an arsenal within reach. Yet this arsenal is withheld from us. How can we execute a successful mission with our hands tied? Without the weapons designed specifically for this enemy, ALS. Will our nation stand by as we venture into this new battlefield? What would our nation say or do if it’s service members were deployed to conventional warfare without weapons?

Veterans are being sent into battle with ALS without weapons. We are simply being told; There is your objective, now defeat it without any weapons.

The I Am ALS Veterans Team is diligently working to change this. As ALS is a multifaceted disease, so the Veterans Team is using a multifaceted approach. As a team comprised of veterans with ALS, family members and advocates, it is focused on equipping veterans with the right arsenal. Allowing us to have a fighting chance to defeat the ever elusive enemy… ALS.

TJ&O

(Juan Reyes)

https://iamals.org/action/veterans-affairs-team/

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