For many people, baseball is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, thanks to New York Yankees player Lou Gehrig and his famous speech. However, Veterans Day is a reminder that members of our armed forces are among those most affected by this terrible disease — and it demands our urgent attention.
U.S. military veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS compared to nonveterans. It’s not yet clear what about military service might trigger the development of ALS. What is clear is that the disease robs these brave men and women of their ability to move, eat, speak and breathe, and it claims their lives between two and five years after a diagnosis, on average.
Our veterans make incredible sacrifices to serve their country. We need to recognize that not all of those sacrifices remain behind on the battlefield. To honor their service, we must do more to understand the link between military service and ALS. We have to be there to support veterans and their families as the disease progresses, and we must offer hope that, one day, there will be a cure for ALS.
This Veterans Day, as we salute the men and women of our armed forces, let’s not overlook the hidden costs of military service — and let’s turn the tide against this threat to the peace and well-being they deserve.
— Laura Freveletti, CEO, Les Turner ALS Foundation, Skokie