For those of you familiar with the story, please read the bolded update at the bottom.
In late1989 while stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam as part of the 633rd Security Police Squadron (Security Police were the predecessor of today's Security Forces), we were part of something special . . . a team, a family, a brotherhood . . . but it was nothing compared to the bond that was forged when, in November of 1990 a group of 44 of us were selected to deploy to Southwest Asia in support of Desert Shield. Some were already close friends, some were just familiar faces, but all 44 were to become the closest of brothers.
Departing Guam on Dec 26th, 1991, we endured some frightening times over the next few months. We survived, sharing tense moments, laughter (yes, gallows humor was alive and well in the midst of war), prayer, and overall emotional support for each other.
We made it through Desert Storm and returned to Guam in the summer of 1991. As is the case with the military, our careers took us in different directions. A few stayed in constant contact, others lost contact, some only to be reunited with the invention of Facebook and other social media. Regardless, the bond remained strong even after years of non-contact.
In April of this year (2016), I got a phone call from Lara Garey, the wife of Edward T. "Tom" Garey, one of our team members. What she told me took my breath away. Tom, who is now in his 40's with a beautiful wife and handsome 13-year old son has been diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Currently there is no cure for this devastating disease, and the prognosis is expectedly poor (to learn more go to: http://www.alsa.org/about-als/facts-you-should-know.html). Tom was told that those of us who were in Desert Storm have a 60% higher likelihood of being diagnosed with ALS than the general population. He was immediately granted 100% service-connected disability through the Veterans Administration.
Thank you to all that made the Deployment Reunion a reality. We all had a wonderful trip and Tom was relaxed and laughed the whole weekend. While we had a lot of laughter, smiles, hugs, and reminiscing, we also learned from Tom and his family it has become increasingly apparent that this awful disease takes and takes from its victims. We learned that ALS is often referred to as the "Bankruptcy Disease". The equipment and cost related to care as the disease progresses is astronomical. Added to that there are alternative treatments they are trying, special dietary requirements, and supplements to improve quality of life that are not covered by insurance . Tom does have the VA to help offset some of the costs, but not all costs related to living and dealing with this terminal disease are covered. Then there are the fun, bucket list items they are trying to cross off. While I know it sounds like one vacation after another, for them it is one last memory they will have. Tom and Lara have said they are trying to make enough memories to comfort them when things get tough. Tom will rely on these memories when ALS robs him of his ability to move and to speak. Lara and Trey will rely on them when ALS robs them of Tom.
While the gofundme was originally set up to help with the reunion, it is now apparent it is needed to help offset costs associated with Tom's disease. You can read about their journey at ww.tomstroops.com.
- Billy Bunton
- Nicole Rathjen
- Tina Emerson
- Ben Geller
- Todd Ruggeri
Organizer and beneficiary
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