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Participants of the Walk to Defeat ALS kick off the event in Emerald Isle, N.C., Sept. 17. The event is a fundraiser to help those suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Photo by Cpl. Miranda Blackburn

MCEC Marines support Walk to Defeat ALS

17 Sep 2011 | Cpl. Miranda Blackburn

Hundreds of people turned out for the Walk to Defeat ALS in Emerald Isle, Sept. 17.

The event is a fundraiser to help those suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

Kim Herbert, the wife of an ALS sufferer, has been organizing walks since 2003 to aid in the search for a cure.

In its inaugural event, the fundraiser brought in more than $126,000, more than $150,000 in 2005 and in 2006, raised a state record of $156,000.

Every year, Walk to Defeat ALS raised money that brings much needed support to those afflicted with the disease by assisting in providing for their personal care, as well as helping to move forward with the global research effort to find a cure.

Community members from around the area participated in the three-mile walk, including more than 300 Marines from the Marine Corps Engineer Center who came to support one of their own.

Randy Herbert, a former combat engineer officer with MCEC, and more than 200 others like him, were exposed to chemicals during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In 1995, Randy Herbert was diagnosed with ALS resulting from those chemicals.

The crippling disease has left him unable to move or speak.

“I had the privilege to serve with Maj. Randy Herbert before ALS stole the function of his body from him,” said Matt Fletcher, Marine Corps Engineer Center public affairs officer. “He was the ‘poster board Marine.’ (He had) perfect (physical fitness tests), (was) a gifted leader, (had) a great sense of humor, (has) a fantastic family and (is) a great man. He was an expert in his craft as both a Marine and an engineer officer. He didn’t just lead Marines, he motivated and inspired them.”

Many Marines said they were happy to be able to give back to the community and support such a cause.

“It was an awesome experience,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Graham, with Combat Engineer Instructor Company, MCEC. “I brought my son out here so we could show our community we support them, just like they support us.”

The Herbert family has advice for others in similar situations.

“Find your faith and surround yourself with people that have a strong faith because it’s your core people of friends that will keep you going and keep you motivated,” said Kim Herbert.

The walk has raised nearly $500,000 for ALS research since it began.