The Marine motto of never leaving a Marine behind doesn't just apply to the battlefield. Three of Wade Smola's Vietnam buddies are coming from Chicago; Louisville, Ky.; and Indianapolis to walk with him and his family Saturday in the Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Alzheimer's.
A Fort Wayne native, Smola joined the Corps in October of 1967, reported to Monument Circle in Indianapolis to be sworn in, was bused to San Diego for boot camp and then transferred to Camp Pendleton for infantry training before being shipped to Vietnam. He served one tour of duty as a Marine private in the Hoosier Platoon 1108 and was honorably discharged in 1971.
On returning home he used the GI Bill to earn bachelor and master degrees in fine arts and graphic design. After his employer went out of business five years ago and he was unable to find work, he suffered depression and began showing signs of early Alzheimer's. He was officially diagnosed with the disease in January.
Because of his condition, his daughter, Azure, has been taking him to the annual platoon reunions the past few years in Spencer, southwest of Bloomington, and keeping in touch with his buddies via the Internet.
She's also one of two Alzheimer's walk coordinators at Lincoln Financial Group and captain of one of five employee teams that will be participating in the walk. This will be the second year she, her sister, Erica, and Erica's husband, D.J. Jolliff, have done the walk with their dad.
In June when she informed the Marines at the reunion about the walk they immediately volunteered to accompany their compatriot on the walk that starts at Headwaters Park, heads through downtown and back to the park, a distance of about two miles. She's hopeful that even more members of the Hoosier Platoon 1108 will join them on the walk next year.
Six hundred ninety-seven people have signed up to participate in the walk. Funds raised will go to the Alzheimer's Association for research, to maintain a website, assist support groups, provide educational materials to educate the public about the disease and to lobby for grants and donations for research. Around $200,000 was raised last year.