Prior to her combat injury and subsequent retirement from service, Command Sergeant Major Gretchen Evans was responsible for more than 30,000 ground troops in Afghanistan and is one of the most decorated female veterans in U.S. history. Inspired by her experience in No Barriers programming, CSM Evans is focusing her efforts on improving the lives of her fellow veterans by actively serving as a mentor, coach, and community activist.
A native of Abilene, Texas, CMS Evans entered the United States Army in September 1979. She spent the next 27 years serving her country including nine deployments overseas. Her final assignment took her to the Middle East as the Garrison Command Sergeant Major of Commander, Combined Forces Command, Afghanistan.
CSM Evans was wounded by incoming fire in 2006 while serving in Afghanistan. In a millisecond her world changed. She incurred life-changing and debilitating injuries, and lost all hearing, suffered a traumatic brain injury and internal injuries. As she laid in her hospital bed recovering from her injuries, she knew her country would take care of her, she just did not know how it would happen or exactly what shape it would take.
CSM Evans’s transition from military life to civilian life was difficult. She had spent her entire adult life in the military. Her heart was broken, not only due to the injuries she sustained but also due to the sudden loss — of family, a team, the fellowship and the mission she had found and loved, the military experience. She was lost, sad and hopeless until she found her way into No Barriers Warriors serving veterans with disabilities from all branches of the military and all eras of service.
With little hope of being accepted into a No Barriers program, CSM Evans sent in her application. She had anticipated a rejection due to the extent of her injuries and a recent PTSD diagnosis. Much to her surprise, CSM Evans was accepted and participated in her first No Barriers Warriors program in 2017. Afterward, CSM Evans said “the healing environment provided by No Barriers was life-changing. Before, during, and after, No Barriers provided me and my group with avenues to replace hopelessness — not only with hope but with a renewed passion for living life to the fullest. Confidence lost, now restored. A new team committed to one another and a new way of life, a life with No Barriers.”
CSM Evans is an avid hiker, runner, cyclist, and reader. She published her first book Leading from the Front, Lessons by a Command Sergeant Major in October 2017. She was awarded the Veteran Alumni of the Year in 2017 by Saginaw Valley State University and recently recognized as a 2019 Outstanding Female Combat Veteran of North Carolina. CSM Evans’ passion is to help all veterans live a life of purpose and passion. She currently resides in Brunswick, Maine, with her husband, Robert, who has retired as the Associate Director of the Charles George VA Medical Center and a Navy Veteran, Aura (Robert’s service dog), and Rusty (Gretchen’s hearing service dog).
Gretchen is scheduled to be inducted into the U.S. Veterans Hall of Fame for her outstanding and meritorious service within the United States Army and in her community.