It was September 11th, 2001 and right then, Michael Verardo knew what he wanted to do with his life. “[W]e were there during the events of September 11th, and Mike knew right then and there he wanted to enlist,” said his wife Sarah during our interview.

He always wanted to be part of the best of the best”, said Sarah, “so he went to jump school at Fort Benning and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” the storied All-Americans. “He loved every single minute of it, he just thought it was a dream come true,” Sarah said. Soon after being assigned to the 82nd, Mike was deployed to southern Afghanistan, a bad place to be in 2009.

“It was a difficult deployment for many reasons. One, they had such a high casualty rate fairly immediately and two, they were fighting against an enemy that was virtually invisible.” Mike’s unit, 2-508th PIR, 4 BCT of the 82nd, lost nearly 40 soldiers during their yearlong deployment from August 2009 to August 2010. Every day Sarah hoped that call would never come to her phone. That hope was shattered on April 14th.