Sarah Verardo is a National Advocate for wounded Veterans and their Caregivers. Her husband, Sgt. Michael Verardo was catastrophically wounded in Afghanistan in 2010 – in two separate IED attacks that took his left leg, much of his left arm, and left him with polytraumatic conditions that have required more than one hundred surgeries and years of speech, visual, physical, and occupational therapies.
Starting as a volunteer with The Independence Fund, Sarah’s steadfast devotion, experience, and drive led to her eventual selection as the organization’s first Chief Executive Officer. Sarah is at the forefront of Afghan Ally inclusion within the Veteran community. Beginning in 2015, Sarah began working closely with the Afghan government to honor and celebrate the sacrifices made by Veterans in both nations. Establishing regular events at the US-based Afghan Embassy, Sarah facilitated key partnerships that allowed American combat Veterans, their Afghan partners, Gold Star families, and Veteran Caregivers the opportunity to find solace on Afghan soil in the United States. The Independence Fund followed suit and welcomed Afghan combat interpreters to join its Operation RESILIENCY retreats, which rely on the bonds of brotherhood to establish mental and emotional wholeness while preventing Veteran suicide, beginning in 2019. Combat Interpreters are welcomed into the reunion retreat to provide the same camaraderie.
Compelled by the federal Administration’s move to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in spring 2021, Verardo kickstarted an effort in July to open The Independence Fund’s programs criteria to all Special Immigrant Visa recipients living in the US. Because of this advocacy, TIF was the first national VSO to include combat interpreters in Veteran programming. As the withdrawal escalated, Verardo created the Allies program at TIF, offering SIV holders financial assistance, and all Afghans navigation of available resources.
In a move that was at once vital and inspiring, the August 2021 collapse of Afghanistan led Verardo and three others to co-found direct-response rescue and aid organization Save Our Allies. Since, SOA has 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. Her groundbreaking leadership within two separate organizations has granted her a unique and powerful look at the needs of Veteran and Ally networks and given her the opportunity to steward resources and support where and when they are most crucially needed.