Talking courage with an Afghanistan Veteran

(3 minute read.)

joel sardi

Joel Sardi is an Afghanistan veteran who served in the Australian Defence Force in the Royal Australian Infantry, 7RAR.  In 2014 he suffered a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia.  Since his accident he has had to deal with everything that paralysis brings and, to continue living life.  He has since resumed working, with Ironside Recruitment as a recruitment consultant.  Joel spends his time rehabilitating from his injury and speaking publicly on his experiences in the army, during his time in hospital, his trials and tribulations and educates people on perspective and resilience.  

I met Joel in February this year and was inspired by his story of resilience and his demonstration of courage – physical, vital and moral courage.  His strengths of bravery, perseverance, zest and authenticity (which are all strengths of the virtue of courage) were clearly obvious.

In honour of all of our service men and women, past and present, I thought it only fitting to share his perspectives on courage with you today, on ANZAC Day.

How would you describe courage?

In my opinion, courage is having the ability to do something when everything else is telling you not to do it, to do something that everybody else will not do.  To stand out from the crowd, step outside your comfort zone and follow through with what you believe is right.

Please describe 1-2 examples in which you have been courageous.  What did you do?  Who/what enabled you to be courageous?  What was the outcome?  

When I first had my accident, my world was turned upside down.  Before my accident I prided myself on my image and appearance.  Being in a wheelchair makes it very hard to look normal, or what I would in the past refer to as normal.  I recall my first time in public in a wheelchair, how uncomfortable I felt – I felt as if everybody was looking at me – but Elisa was extremely proud that I was out in public with her and was clearly enjoying it.

Going against everything my mind was telling me, I pushed through, it was extremely uncomfortable and I didn’t enjoy a second of being out of the hospital.  I just wanted to go back to the spinal ward, close the doors and hide from the world.  This was an ongoing thing for a long time, but I owed it to my family who was there to support me; I owed it to Elisa to keep going; and of course, I owed it to myself to get on with life.

Now, life is reality and my reality is now what my life is about.  I am now changing people’s lives through my public speaking venture by educating them on ‘perspective’, something that would not have happened if Elisa didn’t push me to be in those uncomfortable situations.

Elisa is my calming influence.  The ironic yet beautiful thing about our relationship is that stereotypically the male is the one that comforts the female and makes her feel safe.  I still may be that for Elisa, but I know in my mind that I rely on her for my comfort, happiness and security, more so than she relies on me for anything.

joel sardi 2

Joel standing, while rehabilitating in the USA:

“It was incredible.  Such a beneficial experience.”

From your point of view, to what extent are Australia’s leaders leading with courage?

Our countries true leaders can be found not behind a camera or in the newspapers, but within the community; such as Professor Alan Mckay-Sim.  Alan Mackay-Sim has been called a pioneer of neural regeneration, a trailblazer in stem cell rehabilitation science who has left an impressive international legacy that should ultimately see more people walk again.  Alan has been recognised as the 2017 Queensland Australian of the Year.  A global authority on the biology of nasal cells, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim led the world’s first clinical trial using these cells in the treatment of spinal cord injury.  His research played a central role in the world’s first successful restoration of mobility in a quadriplegic man, and has given hope to thousands of Australians with spinal cord injuries.  A man who has dedicated his life to helping others, instead of bettering himself for financial means and for that, in my eyes, is a leader of Australia, a courageous leader of Australia.

Additionally, Matt and Robyn Cronin, whose son was murdered by a coward, and now dedicate their lives to educating those on violence and the senselessness, using their son Patrick as their motivating factor.  Waking up every day and using an event with such negativity around it and turning it into a positive to better everybody else.  What would shatter and ruin almost everybody, has bought Matt and Robyn, Lucas and Emma into the landscape of leaders of the country by way of their courage.

You can learn more about Joel’s journey here where you will also find contact details to just connect with him, and to engage him as a speaker.  You can also follow him on Facebook and on Instagram.

And for those of you who enjoy high tea, why not come along to Blush on May 27?  Hope to see you there.


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