Soldier wages war against new enemy

Special to the Star News

Trained Army scout Eric Pogulis is leading the charge against a new, yet familiar enemy that affects the lives of approximately 150,000 Americans: ataxia. Pogulis took his fight on the road Sept. 17 when he participated in the second annual Walk, Roll or Stroll for Ataxia.

Eric Pogulis

In 2000, Pogulis fought on behalf of the United States of America in Kosovo. His training prepared him to fight in many different life-threatening situations; however, his story changed soon after receiving orders to be one of the first to go to Iraq in 2003.

“I started noticing that I was having symptoms of ataxia, a disease that affected my mom, grandma and great-grandma,” explains Pogulis. “I was experiencing problems with coordination and some difficulty with speech. Deep down I knew that these symptoms could make me a liability to myself and to my combat team, so I had to face the fact that in spite of my desire to go to Iraq to defend my country, I couldn’t jeopardize our mission. I realized that I had a new, yet familiar enemy that would follow me wherever I go.”

Ataxia is an inherited disease of the central nervous system. Children whose parents have ataxia have a 50 percent chance of getting the disease. When Pogulis was diagnosed, he realized that he had at least one opportunity to end his family’s battle with ataxia, but that meant one more sacrifice: He decided not to have any children.

Pogulis participated in the second annual Walk, Roll or Stroll for Ataxia earlier this month at Wolfe Park in St. Louis Park.

Although ataxia ended his military career and the chance to become a father, his courage to engage in combat has been transformed into a personal fight against the debilitating effects of ataxia on his body.

That’s why Pogulis is working to raise awareness about ataxia and decided to participate in the second annual Walk, Roll or Stroll for Ataxia. For more information, go to www.ataxia.org.

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