I want to prequil this letter with the fact that it is LONG overdue, long overdue. I was recently interviewed by a gentleman in the Public Affairs arena as I was Operation Backbones Pilot Program and asked “Who is Mike Sformo?”
I owe that question a good answer and although this is a unique question, and the short answer is “He has been my family’s Guardian Angel “, But, there is more to this answer than that.
Mike is a man that continually puts other Veterans above himself. He is a blessing to all he interacts with, I hear this from everyone I speak with on the program as well as folks seeking help. He ensures we all have a piece in the pipeline and introduces everyone on the program to the new folks that have not made that leap of faith with blind trust in Mike’s program and believe me, it works. I have had many late-night conversations with folks seeking help but are struggling to see beyond the 25M target and the trusting of someone they don’t know - to see Mike at standing there at the 50M target saying, “I won’t let you fall, I’ve got you, we will see this through”.
Mike is a man of integrity, he has held true to everything he has ever said to me, knowing some of it wasn’t what I may have wanted to hear. He tells it like it is and doesn’t “candy-coat” anything. Day one, when he called me out of the blue, he was straight with me. He told me he could not promise me anything except that he would see me through my situation regardless of the outcome. That was the moment I decided to trust him. And this is coming from a guy who retired out of the Special Operation Community after 24 years and only trusted the person to my left and right.
Mike personifies the words understanding and values, I am sure if you are reading this letter, Mike has shown you my video and the truth is, he values the people behind the injuries and their families. We were never just a number in the system, we were always real folks standing in front of him and he treated us like family. His passion for what he does is beyond reproach. I am still not sure how or even why he does it, but he reaches out to me at least once or twice a month since my procedure almost three years ago. Whether it’s a text message, a funny picture of him at the White House or a full blown “Come to Jesus” phone call because he can read me and knows when things are not how he left them. Bear in mind that he isn’t required to do this, but he just does.
End state is Mike and his program provide a means for disabled veterans and injured soldiers to receive the medical care they deserve and really need, but may have gotten stalled in the system. He truly understands what it feels like to serve and be left broken but wants the best for Veterans and does what he can to make them feel whole again or as best he can, but he doesn’t quit and that speaks volumes. Mike does not promise to fix the broken, he offers answers and opportunities where answers and opportunities had not been before. He provides a network of professional, other veterans and family for emotional support. He provides the opportunity to live life with a little less pain and more optimism than before. Is there any 100% fix? No! We would be silly to think there is, but if the quality of life is improved by 50-75%, that’s a win every day of the week. Here I am, a guy that was never going to be able to ride a motorcycle again because I couldn’t tolerate the pain, and now I am riding again. (Riding has always been a huge passion of mine).
I would be remised if I did not mention his wife, Maria and the part she has played in our lives, especially with my wife, Mari. She has always answered that phone call, email or text message. She has a desire for the spouses to meet, facilitate a unity and know they are not alone in this battle. For a spouse that is struggling to understand, to have the spouse a fraction of what they were prior and know that they are not the only one facing this dilemma – is a huge deal. We are people and families, In the three years we have known Mike and been a part of his program, I could never repay him for the medical healing as well as the emotional healing to include the healing with my family. Folks tend to get wrapped around the physical injury, which is the root cause, but the family becomes broken during that time frame as well. Mike / Maria and this program see it as “The Big Picture”. For that…we are and will be forever grateful. They offered the opportunity for us / the broken to get back a portion of themselves that they had lost, to make us feel like people again. They understand that daily sacrificing the family makes each day. They also understand that the broken have sacrificed enough and have set out to help as many families as possible feel whole again.
Though the current situation of the VA is improving, it is still very impersonal and lacking in the quality of staff, technology, and care that our veterans deserve and Mike is providing. Albeit on a smaller scale, Mike is filling this gap with his network of exceptional medical professionals who are nothing short of angels as well with him, the veterans, and their families, and the integrity, compassion, and commitment he and his team have for this mission.
Mike and Mari, the words “Thank You” will never be enough to thank you for what you have done for us, but we want you to know that we are truly thankful for both of you.
Keep fighting that fight for the voiceless.
Hugh & Mari Sullivan
C Co, 98th Civl Affairs BN, 95th Civil Affairs BDE