Veteran fights for his life after burning 65% of body

By Stacy

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Folly Beach Shrimp Company will have a fundraiser on Saturday to help a national hero -- he's a man who's survived three tours of duty in Iraq and is now fighting for his life.

SSgt. Harold Veronda faced some of the most dangerous missions possible.

"He was an explosives screener and he was also a sniper," said his friend Dan.

The Marine Corps veteran served the U.S. during the Gulf War. And when the War in Iraq{} started a decade later, Veronda volunteered.

He has led many on potentially deadly tasks.

"He brought a lot of people out alive and back to their families in the process of serving our country," Dan said.

But sometimes we are tested when we least expect it.

"It's just kind of ironic," Dan said.

Veronda was doing yard work on June 2. He went to remove a tree stump when a tool backfired and fuel exploded all over him. The explosives expert found himself on fire. He battled to make it out of his own backyard.

"He was able to put the flames out, picked up a cell phone, dialed his wife, asked her to get help, walked in to the house, took clothes off, walk to the back of the house and get in the shower," Dan said.

He was rushed to the hospital with 65 percent of his body covered in burns.

But doctors found something else: Veronda had suffered a heart attack, most likely while he was on fire. They said it was due to stress.

Veronda was in a coma until a few days ago. He underwent countless surgeries on his heart, intestines, colon and skin.

But, his friends still think of him like the man who stood proud and tall in his military uniform. Doctors don't know if he'll ever be the same, but his friends have a feeling he will.

"He's like a living, human machine. The man served his country. He's a patriot, the kindest person, would do anything for anyone," Dan said.

The fundraiser will be Saturday from 3-7 p.m. There will be live music, a silent auction, food and drink specials. Admission costs $20. The silent auction includes items worth as much as $2,000 organizers said.

All the proceeds will be donated to Veronda's family for his medical bills. He is a husband and father of six.

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