Name: PFC Robert Anthony Vardaro
1/8 Marines Wpns Co. CAAT 1
I grew up in Westford, Massachusetts and joined the Marine Corps as an infantry machine gunner in 2007. I first deployed to Iraq in 2009 and did not see any combat, but When I got deployed to Afghanistan in September of 2010, I was put on a hill called 7171 and was hit by multiple IEDs and suffered a severe TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).
My head was hurting so bad from the blasts that I had my Corpsman give me ibuprofen for the headaches for about a week until the care packages arrived with Advil. I continued taking Advil and Ibuprofen at the recommended dosages till I got back to the USA.
I then got sent to the base TBI clinic where they believed I had TBI and gave me medications for it. I then came to the Bedford VA in Massachusetts where they did extensive neurologic testing and proved that I had a TBI injury due to multiple explosions.
Due to my injures, I felt very alone due to the fact I am the only wounded combat veteran from my town from both wars. Also I was dealing with night terrors, headaches, and realized that my brain will never be the same. I did not know what to do until I got in contact with the VA. They put me in contact with the wounded warrior regiment of the Marine Corps and Semper Max. I met other wounded warriors with the same struggles as me and some struggling even worse. I knew I had to achieve and push to better myself for my daughter because she deserves the best.
This is what I wrote a few months ago but my improvement since going to these events has changed my life and realized what I want to do with my life. (My FOCUS):
“Due to my brain damage I can’t do things the way I used to. I have severe short term memory loss and am on multiple medications because of it. Also due to my injury I have had a seizure. I am going to be completely honest this is an actual example of what I deal with now daily in life. (I will remember I went to the park with my daughter, but won’t remember anything I said to her and vaguely remember what I did with her such as push her on a swing. There is a good thing
because of this though; I now spend every second I have with her 100% more being a father than I ever would. Just because I don’t remember what I did with her as she grows up. She will know that I did my best to be the best father for her. I am thankful because she will always know no matter how bad my brain damage is from my TBI. I was always their for her and love her.”
Over time I have developed techniques to better my memory. My memory has improved do to consistent repetition and figuring out whenever I hit a barrier I find ways around it. (Such as sticky notes and programing my phone)
I then went to an event called Midwest Marine Foundation, a program called Focus, where I finally found out what I wanted to do. Seeing fellow service members struggling through life and school I wanted to do part and help out. Give my life to being a devoted father and helping veterans. I told my VA representative that’s what I wanted to do, so she asked me if I would like to talk to several schools disability services and inform them how to help coming home/transitioning veterans for school. I did the event, was on a stage, spoke to them, and told them of my struggles transitioning. They thanked me and said they learned so much from me and will use my experience to better help Veterans in the Future. I am now going to college for being a (Human Service Practitioner) to help veterans so they won’t have to struggle finding help like I did and I can make them succeed and realize this is not the end, theirs a person that will support and help them.
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