Combined Federal Campaign makes a difference

  • Published
  • By Capt. Paul Campbell
  • 92nd Operations Support Squadron Chief of Current Operations
This 50th Anniversary of the Combined Federal Campaign is personal for me. I am stationed at Fairchild under the humanitarian assignment program. In August of 2010, my dad was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. According to the ALS Association website, ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body. It is through these neurons that we are able to control all muscle movement, whether it be moving our arms and legs, or simply breathing or opening and closing our eyelids.
     As ALS progresses and these motor neurons cease to function and die, our ability to initiate and control muscle movement is lost, ultimately resulting in total paralysis in the later stages of the disease. However, what makes ALS particularly devastating is that as people progressively lose the ability to walk, move their arms, talk and even breathe, their minds remain sharp; acutely aware of the limits ALS has imposed on their lives. The average life expectancy for a person with ALS is two to five years from the time of diagnosis. We currently do not know what causes ALS or how it can be prevented and cured. Moreover, only one drug, approved by the Federal Drug Administration in late 1995, currently is available to treat ALS. Thus far, the drug, Rilutek, only has shown limited effects, prolonging life by just a few months.
     My dad served in Vietnam as a welder in a Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron (Red Horse) and remained in the Air Force for about 8 years serving in various stateside locations in addition to his Vietnam service. The reason I point this out is that veterans, regardless of deployment location, deployment frequency or whether they deployed at all, are approximately twice as likely to develop ALS as those who have not served.
     In 2008, the Department of Veterans Affairs implemented regulations to establish a presumption of service connection for ALS. Importantly, the regulation acknowledges the link between military service and increased risk of ALS. Because of this link, veterans can apply for disability benefits through the VA with a minimum disability rating of 30 percent.
     There is only one non-profit organization fighting ALS on all fronts and this organization has been an immense help for me and my family. Without the work of this non-profit organization, I would never have known about the link between military service and ALS. Had I not known this, my dad's medical care, specifically his very expensive medication, would have had to be paid out of his pocket. That pocket is not very deep for a retired welder. Volunteering to be the Fairchild Installation Project Officer for the 50th anniversary of the CFC is a way for me to give back to the many charities that work for the betterment of people's lives in our local area, the country and the world.
     Hopefully, you can see why the CFC is especially meaningful for me this year. I don't tell my story to bring any sympathy to myself or my dad, but to show the importance of the charitable work done by these non-profit agencies. Lou Gehrig's disease is not going to be cured by me volunteering to run the Fairchild campaign nor by me contributing to a non-profit agency that supports ALS research, but every little bit helps these agencies.