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November 11th, 2015

Wounded Warrior Earns Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge

SGT Robert Evans distinguished rifleman wounded warrior

On this Veterans Day, we thought we would reprise this inspirational profile of SGT Robert Evans, a U.S. Army veteran who lost his right hand in combat in Iraq. Remarkably, despite his injury, SGT Evans obtained the Distinguished Rifleman Badge. Read on to learn more about this remarkable young soldier.

Wounded Warrior Goes Distinguished
Report based on story by Ashley Brugnone, CMP writer
At the 2013 Western CMP Games, SGT Robert Evans attained what many shooters seek their entire shooting careers — a Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge. Evans earned his DR badge with just one hand, after losing his right hand while serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army.

SGT Robert Evans distinguished rifleman wounded warriorSGT Robert Evans: Defying the Odds, Single-Handedly
AFter joining the Army in 2003, SGT Robert Evans served two tours in Iraq, suffering a spinal injury on the first tour. On his second tour, his life changed forever. On May 31, 2007, Evans was commanding a Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Iraq. As the Bradley drove under an old Fedayeen guard shack, an IED on top of the guard shack detonated while Evans was reaching out of the turret. The blast amputated Robert’s right hand at the wrist.

Even as a young boy, Evans had always enjoyed shooting. He vowed to stay involved with the sport despite his injury: “I couldn’t give up shooting after I lost my hand. It’s always been too important to me,” he said. “No matter what is going on in my life, when the sights are aligned and the hammer is about to fall, nothing in the world matters at that second. It’s my nirvana.”

Evans worked his way back into the sport by starting in F-Class. The position allowed him to hold hard and pull the trigger, while also being able to use his optics. Then he got involved with J.J. O’Shea’s M1 for VETS Project. The project helps transition wounded combat veterans back into the world of shooting, with equipment arrangements, position training and mental preparations.

SGT Robert Evans distinguished rifleman wounded warrior

Working with the M1 for Vets group, Evans started shooting again. But there were challenges: “The first time I shot after my amputation, it was very frustrating,” he said. “I couldn’t hold still, and shooting left-handed was so foreign.” Being extremely right-eye dominant his entire life, the loss of his right hand caused him to relearn many things, including how to shoot. Learning how to reload and adjust for wind while slung up became a pain for Evans….

SGT Robert Evans distinguished rifleman wounded warrior

In 2008, after several months and rigorous hours of dry firing, Evans found himself crossing the threshold of Camp Perry — a dream he had waited to fulfill his entire life. He scored around 50 points standing, out of 100, on his first trip. Though not bad for someone with an amputation, that wasn’t enough for Evans. He wanted to become a Distinguished Rifleman.

SGT Evans during Team Match at 2013 CMP Western Games.
SGT Robert Evans distinguished rifleman wounded warrior

He began to realize his dream as he earned his first 10 points (towards Distinguished) at Camp Perry in 2012. It took him 15 months to LEG out. His next 6 points came at the 2013 Eastern Games in Camp Butner, NC, followed by 10 more points at the 2013 National Matches. There, hoping to “bronze out,” he managed to one-up himself to actually earn a silver medal.

Then came the 2013 Western Games at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix, AZ. Never giving up hope and remembering his long journey from the hospital bed to the firing line, he received his final 8 points. SGT Robert Evans had become a Distinguished Rifleman.

SGT Robert Evans distinguished rifleman wounded warrior

“There was a lot of pressure, speculation and competition as to who would be the first Combat Wounded Veteran to ‘Go Distinguished’ within M1 for VETS,” he said. “I’m very proud to have earned my badge, but more importantly, I hope that more wounded veterans will realize that it is within their grasp. It’s not an impossibility anymore. I hope it motivates everybody to train a little harder and hold a bit tighter – not just wounded veterans. If I can do it, anybody can.”

Posted Courtesy of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, www.TheCMP.org
Author: Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer/Editor

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May 30th, 2013

Wounded Warriors Compete with USAMU

SFC Josh Olson USAMU wounded warriorStory by Amy Rosewater for TeamUSA.org
As soon as SFC Josh Olson fired his first shot at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, he made history: he became the first active-duty U.S. soldier to compete in the Paralympic Games.

Olson lost his right leg after being attacked while on patrol in Iraq in 2003 but has been able to remain on active duty at Fort Benning, Georgia and is a part of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). He trains alongside of many Olympic soldiers there and now has several other Wounded Warriors along with him as well. The Army announced late last year the expansion of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit to include 24 Wounded Warriors as members of its Paralympic and instructor sections. According to SFC Armando Ayala, there are now nine Wounded Warrior shooters (including SFC Olson) as part of the program and two coaches. SFC Ayala, who has been at Fort Benning for eighteen years and served in Afghanistan, has been training the Wounded Warriors.

SFC Josh Olson USAMU wounded warrior

“Without a doubt [Josh has] inspired folks,” Ayala said. “He might have lost a limb but he’s achieved a world-class level of competition and that says a lot to the Army soldier. It’s amazing how these guys can overcome those obstacles. I’m really excited about this team.”

The Army spread word of the program through advertisements and social media and was able to recruit several soldiers to the program. All nine of the shooters currently in the program happen to be leg amputees, although soldiers can participate in the program with other injuries. Currently, all of the soldiers in the program are men although some women have come to Fort Benning to try it.

SFC Josh Olson USAMU wounded warrior

CLICK HERE to Read Full Story

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April 23rd, 2012

NRA Hosts Wounded Warriors at NRA Headquarters

by Lars Dalseide for the NRA Blog
Wounded Warrior Enduring PrideDisabled soldiers from Project Enduring Pride stopped by NRA Headquarters earlier this year for a tour of the NRA National Firearms Museum and a trip to the Range. Apparently the group had a whale of a time because they’re on their way back for more.

Led by Director Ken Strafer, Project Enduring Pride is a community outreach program that works with and assists the severely wounded warriors returning from Afghanistan and Iraq and now recuperating at Military Medical Centers and Veterans Administrations Hospitals in the Washington, Richmond, or Baltimore areas. Project Enduring Pride assists the men and women who were wounded in the service of our country with the sometimes difficult transition from military to civilian life.

“The event will start with lunch in the Café, followed by museum tours and shooting on the Range,” explained Range Customer Service Specialist Debbie Crews. “I hope everyone is ready to provide an exciting day for these wonderful young men and women.”

Firearms for the Enduring Pride shoot come from the personal collection of various members of NRA staff and volunteers. Ammunition, gift bags and other items have been donated by organizations including Brownells and the U.S. Border Patrol.

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August 7th, 2011

TDI Program Helps Wounded Warriors Adapt to Bionic Limbs

Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) is teaming up with SRT Prosthetics to offer a “Wounded Warrior” training course for injured active/former military personnel. This course will also be open to civilians who are fitted with artificial limbs or other prostheses. The “Wounded Warrior” class will be held on May 14-16, 2012 and will follow TDI’s Handgun 1-2-3 curriculum. For more info, call TDI at (937) 544-7228 or email tdiohio [at] dragonbbs.com.

TDI Operates 186-Acre Training Facility in Ohio
Founded in 1986, TDI is a tactics and training facility located in southern Ohio. TDI’s 186-acre facility features three live fire houses, a 2-story force on force house, 400-yard rifle range, unknown distance range, dueling plate range, vehicle range and a main range with both paper and steel targets. TDI works with civilian, military, Federal, local law enforcement and corporate clients. TDI offers training at both its Ohio facility and at off-site locations around the country.

Video Shows How Wounded Warriors
Successfully Adapt to High-Tech Bionic Limbs

Watch the video below to see TDI’s training program for prosthesis-fitted vets. The video (from WCPO Ch. 9, Cincinnati) shows the new technology that is allowing many combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to resume their lives, and in some cases, their military careers. With rehabilitation and modern prosthetics, 20% of soldiers who have lost one limb are able to return to active duty.

Watch This Video — The New Artificial Legs are Amazing!

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December 26th, 2010

PVA-ORHF Organizes Outdoor Recreation for Wounded Veterans

The Paralyzed Veterans of America-Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund (PVA-ORHF) provides recreational opportunities for seriously wounded veterans. According to the PVA-ORHF, when wounded servicemen and women are asked what they’d like to do again during/after their rehabilitation, a frequent answer is: “I’d like to go hunting and fishing again.” PVA-ORHF makes that possible. These programs help our heroes heal, gain confidence in their abilities, build new support networks and, in general, be happier and more positive about life. Scheduled 2011 events for wounded veterans include:

PVA ORHF VeteransJan: Devil Dog Elk Hunt — Raton, NM
Feb: Pig Hunt Bradley Ranch — Amarillo, TX
March: Turkey Hunt — Jacksonville, FL
April: Turkey Hunts — Amarillo, TX and Billings, MT
May: Turkey Hunt — Warrenton, VA
May: Black Bear Hunt — Tyonek, AK
July: Kenai Fishing — Kenai, AK
Sept: Moose Hunt — Chena Lake, AK
Oct: Pheasant Hunt — Parker, SD
Nov: Whitetail Deer — Warrenton, VA

You can assist PVA-ORHF in its efforts by making a tax-deductible gift. Log on to www.100000patriots.org where you can donate to a permanent endowment fund established to support hunting, fishing, shooting and other outdoor activities for America’s wounded heroes. To learn more about PVA’s outdoor programs for wounded veterans, visit www.pvaheritagefund.org.

PVA ORHF Veterans

“Sports and outdoor recreation play an enormous role in helping our seriously wounded veterans help themselves. Sports are life saving and quality-of-life changing. You just need to see the faces of these guys and gals, many of whom had lost the will to live when they were injured, to understand the impact sports have. Thanks to ORHF and Paralyzed Veterans of America’s world-class sports program, these folks go from hospital beds to taking their first steps back to independence-whether it’s through trap shooting or shooting hoops.

We support many different outdoor sports including fishing, hand-cycling, recreational shooting and hunting, and other sports. Our events are open to all America’s paralyzed veterans and all people with disabilities.”

Joseph L. Fox, Sr. (US Marine Corps, Ret.)
Chairman, Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund

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December 18th, 2010

Wounded Warrier Shoots with USAMU in Int’l Competition

Story by Steve Cooper, CMP Writer
Sergeant First Class Josh Olson lost his right leg during a combat patrol in Iraq, but thanks to a rehabilitation program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and an USAMU initiative to retain wounded warriors, Olson continues to serve his country as a member of the Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU).

SFC Josh Olson

SFC Olson recently spent two days with USAMU teammates and fellow shooters at the CMP’s Dixie Double Precision Air Rifle and Air Pistol Event. There, as an out-of-competition air rifle participant, Olson fired the highest aggregate score in the match. However, as he fired from a seated position, he wasn’t officially competing against the able-bodied shooters. Though he wears a full leg prosthesis at the office and when competing in prone competition, SFC Olson said it gets uncomfortable when traveling or sitting for long periods of time. Hence he removed the artificial limb while shooting from the bench.

SFC Josh OlsonIn 2003, while deployed in Iraq, SFC Olson was leading a motorized patrol when his vehicle was ambushed. He left the vehicle to return fire when an RPG rocked his truck and blew his leg out from under him. Severely wounded, Olson was med-evac’d, first to Mosul, then to Germany, and finally to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the USA. For the next 18 months, SFC Olson received inpatient and outpatient care at Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., prior to reactivating with the Army, eventually assigned to the USAMU.

Olson recalled: “During my time at Walter Reed, a lot of the physical therapy and occupational therapy events we did involved shooting. When at Walter Reed, we were actually shooting sporting clays and I shot really well. One of the occupational therapists said the AMU was looking for amputees who wanted to stay on active duty and possibly try out for the Paralympics. I jumped at the opportunity and was able to stay on active duty”.

SFC Josh OlsonAfter joining the USAMU, SFC Olson began shooting competitively in June 2005 and went through a ‘baptism of fire’ at Camp Perry and in international competition. When he’s not shooting a precision air rifle, SFC Olson competes in .22 caliber international rifle. Following the CMP Dixie Double, he participated in the Championship of the Americas (CAT Games) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the prone able-body event.

SFC Olson hopes to compete in the Paralympic Games or regular Olympic Games in London in 2012. He will try out for both events, either competing as a disabled shooter in the Paralympics or as an able-bodied competitor on equal terms with other Olympic marksmen. He said if he does not make the Olympic team, he’ll know he’s done his best to get there.

When not competing, SFC Olson helps National Guard and Reserve soldiers prepare for combat prior to deployment. “If I can help one person learn skills that will save their life or that of a buddy, it will be well worth it.”

This story has been edited for length. Read full story in the CMP Online Magazine.
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July 14th, 2010

Special Forces Sgt. Assists Veterans Despite His Own Injuries

This profile of disabled veteran Dwight Hayes (Sgt. U.S. Army, retired) first appeared in the NRA Blog. While competing in the Airgun match at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Colorado, Hayes was interviewed by NRA correspondent Lars Dalseide. Hayes’ strong will and his determination to serve others provides an inspiration for all of us.

Dwight Hayes Special ForcesSgt. Dwight Hayes — Overcoming Adversity by Lars Dalseide
Dwight Hayes is a regular at the Bracken Rifle & Pistol Range in San Antonio, Texas. With his Lone Star cap snugly in place, he goes to the range to work on guns, organize shoots, and gather with friends. It’s a long way from his time as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but it’s time well spent.

“If you’re in San Antonio, Bracken is the place to be,” said Hayes. “Bracken and the folks at Alamo Mobility have been great to us disabled vets.” Working with disabled veterans is of great importance to Dwight. It’s an attitude he developed while hospitalized after a failed High Altitude Low Opening, or HALO, jump. Having more than a hundred such jumps under his belt, this one should have been all but routine.

Dwight Hayes Special Forces“I broke one of my rules,” smiled Hayes, adding: “Gotta stick to the rules.”

So what are the rules?

“During a HALO jump, you’re okay if you can see the road. If you see the cars, you’re still okay. If you can make out the color of the car, you’re still okay. If you can tell the difference between a Ford and a Chevy, you’re still okay. If you can make out the gender of the driver, you’re still okay. But if you can make out the license plate, then you’re in trouble.”

Before there’s a chance to react, Dwight rocks his wheelchair with laughter and slaps my back. Apparently the story is a standard. “They love that one back at Audie Murphy.”

Hayes refers to the Audie Murphy Veterans Memorial Hospital back in San Antonio. According to Hayes, they have one of the best Spinal Cord Injury Centers in the country. It’s also where he spent two years recovering from his failed HALO jump. Now he goes there to comfort those new to the ward.

Dwight Hayes Special Forces“I know what it’s like,” Hayes said. “I know all about time alone, watching the walls, sitting in an empty hospital. I go there and get them out.”

With assistance from Audie Murphy and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Hayes and other vets do their best to take the patients out into field. Everything from deep sea fishing to time on the range (sponsored by Winchester) to hunting trips.

“They even have a deer lease,” said Hayes. “Got a doe and an eight-point buck last season.”

The main lesson he tries to pass on is perseverance. He shares this through the story of his injury, his rehabilitation, and his twenty-five years in the U.S. Army. “The injury occurred eighteen years in,” Hayes explained. “I was able to serve a full twenty-five because I successfully petitioned for reinstatement after demonstrating that I could still do my job. Maybe, some of the kids at Audie will hear that and know they can still be productive too.” And that, too, will be time well spent.

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July 7th, 2010

Disabled Vets Compete in National Veterans Wheelchair Games

Nat'l Veterans Wheelchair Games Air Rifle MatchThe 30th National Veterans Wheelchair Games commenced this week in Denver, Colorado. The largest annual wheelchair sports competition in the world, this event offers 17 different sports to veterans who use wheelchairs due to spinal cord injuries, amputations and neurological diseases. One of the popular events is the Air Rifle competition, which has attracted ten relays of competitors, all of whom are wounded or disabled military veterans.

With the help of family, friends, and volunteers, they unpack their guns, sight in their rifles, and shoot three rounds of twenty shots in thirty minutes. The competitors display a wide array of emotions — some are intense, some are smiling, and some are satisfied with the mere act of competing.

The stories are as diverse as those who are shooting: An Army ranger injured post-retirement, an officer with multiple sclerosis, an enlisted man wounded in combat. They come from California, from Ohio, from Florida and Texas. “We’ve seen a wonderful change in our guys,” said a group leader from California. “They find a sport in which they can flourish and their smiles are contagious.”

Photos and story by Lars Dalseide, courtesy NRA Blog.

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