“The list of how much they’ve [The Fund] helped me and how amazing they are is endless.”
It was Independence Day, July 4, 2012, and they had been fighting the enemy for hours.
Though members of his unit had been critically injured, Staff Sergeant Monte Bernardo and his fellow Soldiers had refused to give up. Monte, as Alpha team leader, directed his unit as they took fire from both sides, ordering grenade launches with hopes to secure the area and end this battle. He picked a position between two members of his unit. One second, he was calling out orders. The next, Monte was thrown 25 feet away, landing backwards on a hill.
“I heard a noise, and I remember thinking ‘What was that?’ Then I [crashed] into the ground on my right shoulder and realized I’d just blown up,” he said. “When I tried to stand up, I couldn’t.”
A fellow Soldier rushed to his aid, and Monte knew from his friend’s expression that Monte’s injuries were life-threatening — not only was his left hand severely damaged, but he’d lost both of his legs in the explosion. His unit transported him to a hospital in Kandahar for further treatment, and once there, the doctors put Monte, who was in excruciating pain, into a medically induced coma.
“Then it was like someone turned off the TV and turned it back on in DC when I woke up at Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center],” said Monte. “Within the first couple of days, Semper Fi & America’s Fund showed up in inpatient care and introduced themselves.”
Immediately, The Fund began to help by providing Monte’s mother, brother, and four sisters with family support grants that offset travel expenses and allowed them to remain at Monte’s bedside. The Fund also supported his sister as she stayed with Monte to further assist with his long-lasting recovery. As Monte began to heal, he became an active participant in Fund events that gave him a supportive outlet outside of the hospital and improved his mental wellbeing. Upon his return home, The Fund sent supplies to help with daily tasks, as well as a grant to adapt his vehicle and funding to purchase a customized wheelchair to ensure Monte’s continuing independence.
Last year, when Monte underwent surgery to improve his function and mobility as a double amputee, The Fund surprised him with a Purple Heart ceremony in the hospital. Having been unconscious when he was first awarded the Purple Heart for his great courage and sacrifice, The Fund, along with his wonderful wife, Beth, arranged the entire event — including flying in Monte’s brother-in-law — a Marine — to do the honors, and a squad from Walter Reed also assisted.
“The Fund is huge to me … much more than just an organization to me, they are family,” said Monte. “A group of people that are always there for each other, and a group that will do anything for the wellbeing of others.”
With no plans to slow down, Monte has set many goals for the future, including organizing a fishing and hunting program that will donate back to the organizations that have supported him throughout his journey to healing. He recently attended a Spur Clinic, hosted by The Fund’s Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program — a program that helps veterans on their road to recovery through equine therapy. Monte enjoyed it so much that he now plans to pursue learning the trade of blacksmithing through Semper Fi & America Fund’s Apprenticeship Program.
“Mold your injuries around your life, not your life around your injuries,” Monte said, serving as an example of doing just that as he continues to thrive and look toward the future—one full of hope and endless possibilities.