I am Garrett J. Smith

a U.S. military veteran living with ALS


I was numb to the initial diagnosis. Then there was anger, with the question “Why me?”

My name is Garrett J. Smith. I am a Veteran who proudly served for 13 years as a Builder in the US Navy Seabees, which included 2 deployments: Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2012. I was promoted to Petty Officer First Class (BU1) on June 27, 2017, which was a well-deserved accomplishment. My loving and caring wife Jennifer and I have 3 bright and beautiful kids who amaze me every day. I love going on hiking adventures and exploring everything the great outdoors has to offer. All my life I have been a hard and dedicated worker and accomplished so much in life that I would not ever change anything.

Early February 2017, I started to have sinus drainage causing me to cough all the time and it wouldn’t go away so after many visits to my primary DR I was finally referred to an ENT towards the end of March. After seeing an ENT for a couple of months due to my slurred speech and randomly choking they referred me to a neurologist. I remember this day all too well. June 02, 2017, I went to see a neurologist and I went through a series of tests including an EMG, blood test, MRI and a spinal puncture. My neurologist asked me if I have ever heard of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and I said yes, I participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge where I had ice cold water dumped over my head. Truthfully at that time, I had no idea what ALS really was other than it was a disease. The doctor said to have my family members present for the result on June 30th and of course I was by myself for the initial appointment so talk about deer in the headlight look. There was no emotion, just a blank stare and all I could think about was why me and how did I get such a disease. June 30, 2017, I was officially diagnosed with Bulbar Onset ALS and was told the average life expectancy was six to eighteen months and to get my affairs in order. That entire day and weeks thereafter, the only thing on my mind was how I am going to beat this. A year after the diagnosis I tried just about everything to slow the progression down and so far, nothing has helped. Eventually, I started thinking instead of beating ALS, how am I going to embrace and live with it so I may keep a good quality of life and still be a great father and husband for my family.

I had gone to my local VA clinic to get a second opinion and they confirmed that I was positive for having ALS and they recommended that I speak with their social worker, which is how I found out ALS is a 100% service-connected disease and they put me in touch with a Paralyzed Veteran of America rep. Being in the military for so long, I never heard about ALS being a service-connected disease. On my last day at my reserve Center, I was able to share my story with everyone and educate them about ALS being service-connected and that they are twice as likely to get this awful disease. I honestly felt relieved knowing that I and my family would be taken care of financially which lifted a huge burden off our shoulders and was a blessing.

God Bless everyone battling this disease. To my wife Jennifer, thank you for being my rock and my loving wife through this entire journey. I love you so much! Your strength and courage will never be forgotten.

Please find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Garrett_J_Smith or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/G.J.Smith2006.

Thank you for reading my story.

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