From enduring her husband’s life-changing, horrific war injuries to becoming a National Advocate for wounded Veterans and their Caregivers, Sarah Verardo’s relentless never quit attitude has driven her to the forefront of two separate organizations who see the needs of Veterans and Allies, which have given her the opportunity to steward resources and support where and when they are most crucially needed.
Sarah’s husband, Sgt. Michael Verardo was catastrophically wounded in Afghanistan in two separate IED attacks that took his left leg, much of his left arm, and left him with polytraumatic conditions that have required over one hundred surgeries and years of speech, visual, physical, and occupational therapies.
Nevertheless, Sarah speaks with Marcus about the everyday challenges she and her daughters face in the care of her husband, her involvement as the CEO of The Independence Fund, and being at the forefront of Afghan Ally inclusion within the Veteran community. In August 2021, the collapse of Afghanistan led her and three others to co-found the direct-response rescue and aid organization – Save Our Allies, who evacuated more than 17,000 US citizens, SIV holders, and wartime Allies from the country and assisted in medical and humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.
In this episode you will hear:
• [Michael Verardo] was injured the first time. He was riding as a gunner and hit a roadside IED. He was ejected out. (12:54)
• On his very first foot patrol back in – It was 14 days to the day of the first IED, there was an old Russian land mine that had been hooked up to 2 – 15gallon drums of homemade explosives, and it was game over. His left leg was immediately blown off. Most of his left arm was blown off. They actually ended up sewing it to his back on his medical flight. He burned over 30% of his body. He had damage to his airway, his eardrums were blown out. It was significant poly trauma. (13:29)
• Marcus: “He got banged up and then you all got married?” (17:02)
• Marcus: You know the odds of that happening? That’s when you know you’re not behind the wheel. (17:46)
• That sense of patriotism calling – That’s all he wanted to do. (18:02)
• It’s been horrific. More than my worst nightmare. (18:26)
• He actually handed me a Bible before he handed me an engagement ring. (20:18)
• He said holiness needs to be more important than happiness. (20:37)
• His only prosthetic leg broke, and I duct taped it for 57 days while I waited for someone at the VA to sign a piece of paper. (33:18)
• The Navy and the Navy hospital took care of him as if he was one of their own while we waited for VA to kick in. (24:23)
• I think there needs to be permanent designations for certain conditions. (26:24)
• It seems that some people – not all – at VA would rather fail by following the process, than succeed by deviating from it. (27:21)
• Independence Fund started out in the halls of Water Reed, wanting to give independence back to those who sacrificed theirs for us. (34:39)
• If someone did not care about Afghanistan at that time, it told me everything I needed to know about them. (41:47)
• I think the White House wants us to move on from Afghanistan. They’re not only not helping – I think they’re actively in the way of groups that want to do good. (52:36)
• Reach out to the wounded veterans in your community and help these families. (59:15)