“You live for the next challenge.” That's how George Sasse tackled every mission in his 23 years as a Naval Special Warfare boat operator.
During 10 deployments overseas, George supported Navy SEALs on what are known as SWCC teams—but now George faces an even tougher battle against ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
His wife, Laurie, started seeing the signs and symptoms last year.
“He had slurred speech and we didn't know why, so they just started doing tests,” said Laurie Sasse. “They didn’t diagnose it until February, and it just took over, it happened really fast.”
One of the first things that went was George's voice.
He depends on an iPad Mini to speak for him.
“It’s a challenge, my arms are very weak,” said George through his iPad.
“Now his neck has just started to go so he wears a brace to help hold his head up,” said Laurie.
Despite all the changes in his body, the one thing that hasn't changed is George's smile and sense of humor.
It can be seen around his former SWCC teammates. When they joke about how George can no longer use his hands, George instead, raises his leg.
Chip M. served alongside George for years on Navy SWCC boats, and even in retirement, is still one of his closest friends.
“You learn to depend on the person next to you and that doesn’t go away when you come back home,” said George of the men he deployed with.
That sense of team camaraderie immediately surfaced when Chip and other SWCC boat members learned about George's battle with ALS.
“We knew it was going to get bad, get expensive and change his life completely,” said Al F., who worked with George on SWCC boats during their time in the Navy and still works with George to this day as a boat captain for Navy contractor Seaward Services.
The company is now working with George's teammates to take action for this hero's family.
“George used to love to run through the state park, so we decided, if he has to suffer with what he has to do, we'll put some weight on our back and do some suffering with him,” said Chip.
So this Saturday, hundreds will embark on a five-mile ruck march at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, all to raise money for George and his family.
So far, $30,000 has been donated and more is expected the day of the event.
“I was blown away; that’s an incredible amount of money,” said George, when NewsChannel 3 broke the news to him on camera.
“Hopefully, it will give him and his family a sigh of relief, and so they can focus now on George’s fight,” said Chip.
It's a fight that affects mostly military veterans. They are more than twice as likely to contract ALS than the rest of the population.
George actually worked alongside Mike Oyer, a retired Navy SEAL who passed away last year from the same deadly disease.
But, those horrible odds don't faze this warrior one bit.
“I plan to fight this condition with everything I have,” said George.
“I don’t think I have a message for him, he has a message for us, never quit, no white flags,” said Chip.
“You have to make the best of the time you have,” said George.
The George Sasse ALS Ruck March will start at 8:30 AM Saturday August 31st, leaving from the Shore Drive Entrance of First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, traveling along the Cape Henry Trail for 2 ½ miles, and then turn around and come back. The public is invited to attend.
If you want to donate to George and his family, they have a special savings account set up through Navy Federal Credit Union.
NFCU account: George Sasse ALS Ruck Walk
Don’t forget about the Walk to Defeat ALS at Mount Trashmore in Virginia Beach Sept. 22nd! More to come about that right here on NewsChannel 3!