As a lifelong Auburn fan, 29-year-old Sgt. Ian Hogg has lived the words, "I believe in a spirit that is not afraid."
Hogg became known for fighting as a Marine in the Iraq War, but today he is fighting against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
ALS is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.
"When they first told me it was ALS, I didn't know a lot about it, but I knew it was bad," Hogg said. "In my mind, the minute they told me the first thing I thought was, 'I can beat it'--that's just the way I am. The sad thing is there is no beating it, and I fight it every day."
Hogg was diagnosed with ALS in September 2009 after showing symptoms for several years.
"Even though I consider myself pretty tough, it just slowly but surly has taken everything that I am able to do," he said. "For somebody like me, it's really hard to deal with being up in a chair--I've always been able to do everything on my own."
He has not been able to walk or use his arms for a year.
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Hogg, who lives with his wife Misty and daughters Bailey and Addyson, said Auburn has always played a role in his life.
"I had my nose broken right across the road from the stadium playing football--it's always been a big part of my family and my life," Hogg said.
Hogg, a Birmingham native who lettered in football, baseball and wrestling in high school, said he always had a desire to be great. This desire is what inspired him to join the Marines.
"Going to Iraq and fighting for my country has to be one of the single greatest things any man could do," Hogg said.
"I believe that I proved to myself and my family that I was capable of greatness--better than being an NFL football player or Major League Baseball player--I did something that wasn't a God-given talent, but it was just me looking within myself and knowing that I could do it."
Hogg was among the first Marine infantrymen to arrive overseas in Kuwait Jan. 24, 2003. His term took him across Iraq, where he remained until June.
While he was overseas, Hogg was responsible for leading 18 Marines into combat and bringing them back alive.
During his time in Iraq, Hogg became known for flying an Auburn flag from the antenna of his humvee.
"I put the flag up at first as a way for my section of guns to locate me on the battlefield," Hogg said.
Hogg's commander told him he had to take his flag down, but it remained on the back rack of his humvee until the night they invaded Baghdad.
"I said, 'the hell with it,' and ran the flag back up the antenna despite being told by a Lt. Col. not to do it--that's the way I was--I was a sergeant, and nobody was going to tell us what to do," Hogg said.
"If the battalion commander wanted the flag down he was going to have to come up there around all those people that were trying to kill us, and I knew that wasn't going to happen, so I flew the flag."
A picture of Hogg and his Auburn flag made its way back home to Alabama.
"The word got back to my battalion commander that the flag he told me not to fly had made me famous and got me a scholarship to go to Auburn," Hogg said.
Today, Hogg's health has forced him and his family to move closer to relatives.
"If I was able to be where we wanted to be, we would be in Auburn--we love it--our hearts are in Auburn still," Hogg said.
Hogg's house in Auburn is currently for sale.
"Right now, what we want is for the house in Auburn to sell so they can have a house built that's more suited for his needs," said Charles Ann Muro, Hogg's mother.
Muro said her son is proud of his service and still holds his head high.
"Despite this disease he's still a very proud person and a very strong person--even more so now," Muro said. "He's a loving husband and a wonderful father, and his wife and his children are the most important things to him."
More information on ALS, how to help Ian and his family and information on Hogg's house in Auburn can be found on IanHoggBenefit.org.
"I believe that one day they will find a cure, but unfortunately you have to have money to do it. No matter how bad I want it or my kids deserve it, the only way to do it is research and we've got to have money," he said.
"My hope is that I'm able to fight the disease long enough so that they find a cure, and the more money they have the better chance I have of seeing my girls grow up and maybe even walking on my own one day--I will never ever quit believing that."
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