On Thursday, The Huntington's Disease Society of America (HDSA) and the Massachusetts State House will honor local veteran, Jose Valdivieso, for his brave military service and courageous struggle with Huntington's Disease (HD). A 2003 Medway High School Graduate, Jose retired honorably from the U.S. Army shortly after being diagnosed with the disease in 2011. Jose will receive the HDSA Person of the Year Award and State Representatives Jeffrey Roy (D-Franklin), John Fernandes (D-Milford) and James Cantwell (D-Marshfield) will present Jose with a joint citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
|Huntington's Disease Society of America|
"I am honored to represent Jose and his family in the House of Representatives and delighted that the Huntington's Disease Society is recognizing him as its person of the year," said Representative Jeffrey Roy (Franklin – D). "It's the dedicated and noble service of individuals like Jose who answered the call of duty and served in harm's way so that we could be free. Jose is a local hero who carried on that tradition of service and set himself apart through meritorious achievement. While he's living with an impossible disease he perseveres with a smile on his face and enriches the lives of others."
Joining the military promptly after high school, Jose completed a 15 month tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan totaling 18 months. He received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained as a gunner when his Humvee was struck by an explosive device. Jose was also awarded the Army Commendation Medal for heroism and meritorious achievement, and honored with other veterans from the Wounded Warriors Project on a segment of Good Morning America in 2011.
HD is a devastating, hereditary, degenerative brain disorder that results in a loss of cognitive, behavioral, and physical control. The disease was passed down to Jose from his father, who died from the disease when Jose was 10 years old. Jose's older brother, Patricio, also suffers from HD. Along with the physical injuries and post traumatic stress from combat service, Jose copes with HD symptoms like loss of balance and coordination, sleep disorder, and speech impairment. Slowly diminishing his ability to walk, think, talk, and reason, Jose will eventually become totally dependent upon others for his care. More than 30,000 people in the United States are currently diagnosed with HD. Each of their siblings and children has a 50 percent risk of developing the disease, therefore 250,000 are at risk. "I join Representative Roy in expressing the honor it is to represent a person of such courage," stated Representative Fernandes. "Jose's dedication to service on behalf of our country and his strength in taking a lead in the effort to show others how to live through and with Huntington's is inspirational."
Jose often turns to laughter to cope with the challenges of Huntington's. As he says, "joking and laughing helps in staying positive. You just have to keep on smiling." Like any good soldier, Jose perseveres, and his courage serves as a model for those who cross his path. He currently lives in Medway with Patricio and his younger brother, Javier, a local Police Officer and member of the Coast Guard.
The Huntington's Disease Society of America is the largest 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to improving the lives of everyone affected by Huntington's Disease. Founded in 1968 by Marjorie Guthrie, wife of folk legend Woody Guthrie who lost his battle with HD, the Society works tirelessly to provide help for today and hope for tomorrow. HDSA supports 21 Centers of Excellence at major medical facilities including Massachusetts General Hospital, funds research into the biology of the disease to facilitate the development of treatments and cures, hosts more than 170 support groups for people with HD, their families, caregivers and people at-risk, and is the premiere resource on Huntington's disease for medical professionals and the general public. To learn more, about Huntington's disease and to get involved in HDSA, please visit www.hdsa.org or call 1-800-345-HDSA.