I first met Gary “Doc” Welt, a retired Navy SEAL, about a year ago.
He was in a motorized wheelchair, taking part in a walk to raise funds and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Welt, who had learned he had the disease, said he was told he had three to five years to live and “wouldn’t die without a fight.”
Yesterday, Doc lost that fight.
He was 55.
“The broken bits of our hearts are heavy as we share the sad news that this brave warrior reported to his final duty station today,” said a note on the “Help Gary Welt, SEAL veteran with ALS” Facebook page yesterday. “His suffering is over, but his loved ones still need your thoughts as they grieve and honor Gary. Fair winds and following seas forever, Doc. We love you.”
I was sitting down last night with Dan O’Shea, another former SEAL, talking about plans for a fundraising weekend kicking off Apr. 26 when a phone call brought the news.
The fundraiser is still on and I’ll have a lot more about that next week in my column.
After surviving the battlefields of Afghanistan and many other parts of the world, Welt last year told me he was facing a so-far unconquerable foe.
“In a word? It sucks,” said Welt at the time.
Welt, who retired as a master chief, spent 16 years as a medic and told me he wanted to put that experience to work helping find out why service members are at such a greater risk of dying from ALS.
“We can be where it’s 40 degrees below zero or 130 degrees,” he surmised. “We are under all kinds of stress. Maybe that’s why.”
Those now diagnosed are given pretty much the same information that the Yankee’s Hall of Fame first baseman heard in 1939, said the spokeswoman for the ALS Association Florida Chapter.
For more information about the fundraiser, contact Jon Workman, Silver Strand Foundation DE, Inc. PO Box 129 Smyrna, DE 19977 (302)584-0688 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.