MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - -- What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis? Before 1939, the majority of American citizens had never heard of such a thing. But when Lou Gehrig, the self-proclaimed “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” abruptly retired from the game of baseball that same year, the disease suddenly gained the undivided attention of the nation. Though more than 60 years passed since then, there is still no known cause or cure for what is now often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
As part of the effort to raise awareness and funds, roughly 200 students and 100 permanent personnel from the Marine Corps Engineer School at Courthouse Bay participated in the 2nd Annual Emerald Isle, N.C. – Walk to D’Feet ALS Saturday.
The Marines’ involvement in the event was a direct result of the personal friendship between the school’s commanding officer and retired Maj. Randy L. Herbert, according to Capt. Ryan M. Geer, a supply officer with Marine Corps Engineer School.
“It’s all about taking care of your own,” said Geer. “We combat engineers are a close-knit group.”
After returning from the Gulf War in 1992, the former combat engineer officer began experiencing symptoms of the disease, according to Kim M. Herbert, the chairperson of the event and wife of the major. It wasn’t until 1995 that Herbert was officially diagnosed.
The disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. The progressive loss of motor control leads to paralysis and loss of breathing control.
“The degree to which this disease robs people of their livelihood is hard to imagine,” said Geer.
The disease only attacks the nerves, not the brain, so people can still see, hear, taste, smell and feel. A person living with ALS knows everything that is going on around them.
The 5k walk is the ALS Association’s national signature event. More than 50,000 people in 84 cities participated in 2004. The Emerald Isle walk, the 10th largest in the nation, is only one of 140 scheduled for this year around the nation.
“Nine months of preparation has gone into making this event a success. We’ve been going door to door and school to school, trying to get the community to step up to the plate and make a difference,” said Herbert.
To date, a total of $144,000 has been raised towards the overall goal of $150,000, according to Jamie Ebert, the development coordinator for the Emerald Isle, N.C. walk. Finishing as one of the top 20 teams, the Marine Corps Engineer School donated $911.
Along with those from the Engineer School, Marines from the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and Headquarters and Support Battalion, School of Infantry (East), totalling close to 150, were also on hand for the event.
“It’s great to see all of his fellow Marines showing their support and coming out to the event,” said Herbert.
The major only needed one word to describe how he felt. “Awesome.”
For more information about ALS or how to make a donation, go to the ALS Association – Jim “Catfish” Hunter Chapter website at http://www.catfishchapter.org.