About Gretchen Evans:
Gretchen went into the Army at 19 originally to serve 4 years and receive educational benefits. But what she found was her place. The comradery, the mission of defending those who cannot defend themselves, freeing the oppressed and most importantly defending her home. She ended serving 27 combined years on active duty and in the reserves. Her successes in the military were made possible by great leadership and mentors. She entered the military in 1979, so her leaders were seasoned Vietnam soldiers. They had been in battle and took their roles as leaders very seriously. Also, along the way she had some female leaders who demonstrated how to be successful. They taught her that the best leaders are those who care the most about their soldiers and the least about themselves or promotions. If she had a bad leader, she would tell herself “I will never be like that” and then when she encountered good leaders, she would incorporate their wisdom and ways into her leadership style.
With 27 years in, as a Command Sergeant Major, she was out at a forward FOB (forward operating base) checking on soldiers. She had only been there a few minutes when mortar rounds starting hitting their location. Before she could get into one of the bunkers a round landed to her right and the explosion threw her into the side of one of the concrete bunkers which resulted in a closed head wound, loss of my hearing and some other injuries. She did not know she was deaf until she woke up in the hospital.
Her transition like most veterans was rocky at best. She had worn a uniform for most of her adult years and had little experience working or navigating the civilian world. Her lack of understanding of the civilian ways coupled with her injuries made it hard to find employment and to feel like she fit in anywhere. She hit a low point and thought that she might not make it when she discovered America’s VETDOGS who trained a hearing service dog for her. The service dog became her ears and she felt less like a deaf person. She began sharing her experiences of how she learned to use what happened to her for the good of others.
Initially told no by the World’s Toughest Race selection team, who thought their injuries were too severe for such an arduous race, Gretchen didn’t give up. In fact she fought harder and explained to the race director that they just wanted the chance to compete and not be disqualified due to their disabilities. They did not want to be judged on our injuries. The director said yes.