All month, we are featuring stories of individuals who are having an impact in the fight against ALS.
Meet Larry Harms. Larry is a father, grandfather, decorated Air Force veteran and tireless ALS advocate from Colorado. When you meet Larry, his wonderful sense of humor, optimism and love for life is immediately apparent. We recently sat down with Larry and learned how determined he is to live life to the fullest despite his diagnosis.
From 1969-1970, during my senior year in college at the University of Nebraska, I received my draft notice for the Army. Fortunately, the Air Force offered me the chance to finish my degree if I went to pilot training. So, after graduation I was off to become a pilot. Ironically, I’d never been in an airplane in my life and prayed I’d enjoy it. Having grown up on a farm, I had experience operating machinery, but nothing compared to breaking the sound barrier or flying formation in a twin-engine jet. One short year later, I found myself flying over 200 combat hours in the Vietnam War.
From 1976-1990, I received my Master’s Degree from University of Southern California, which opened new doors for me in the Air Force. After spending a year on loan to a major defense contractor, I was given the opportunity to alternate between flying and being a program manager for several weapons programs. My final flying assignment was as a Research Pilot in a flight test wing.
In 1990, I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after serving my country for 20 years. Ironically, I later learned that people are nearly two times more likely to suffer from ALS if they are military veterans.
In August 2012, I was told that I “might” have ALS. Like nearly everyone diagnosed with ALS, it took another 18 months of every test imaginable and two spinal surgeries before I was officially diagnosed in December 2013. The unknown can be unbearable on one’s family.
In 2016, I decided to serve on the board of directors for The ALS Association Rocky Mountain Chapter. As the only current board member actually living with ALS, I bring a different perspective, and represent those of us who are fighting this ugly disease on a daily basis.
This past May, Larry traveled with the Chapter to the National ALS Advocacy Meeting in Washington D.C. to advocate for important ALS initiatives to his members of Congress. You can instantly see Larry’s passion for supporting and making a positive impact on people affected by the disease.
Larry ended his interview with a valuable piece of advice:
Thanks to the love and support of my family and friends, I am trying to live life to the fullest. I like to say that ‘I am living with ALS, not dying from it.’ I am determined to continue to do the things that I love until I am no longer able.
My advice would be to live the life you love – go snorkeling, golfing, skiing, travel and do all thing things you love for as long as you can. It may not be as pretty as it once was, but it can still be fun. Tell your story wherever and whenever you can. Education, awareness and funding are the keys to finding a cure.
Help Larry and all the brave military veterans like him live every day to the fullest. Donate today.