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Wounded soldiers look forward to Warrior Games

By DAVID BURGE | Tribune News Service | Published: May 7, 2017

Brandi Evans can't help but wonder why she has had to go through so much pain and suffering during the past 14 years.

Now that the former sergeant has qualified for the Warrior Games for the second straight year, she is starting to gain some clarity.

Evans was crossing a street late one night in 2003 in her hometown of Denver when she was hit by a car.

Evans had to get her knee replaced and had pins put into her hip.

After nearly four years of medical treatment, she was forced to leave the military with a rank of sergeant.

But she has persevered, and now she again is going to the Warrior Games -- an Olympic Games-style event for wounded, injured and ill service members of all branches.

"They say that things happen for a reason," said Evans, a civilian employee with the Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion since 2008. "You just don't know it at the time."

Competing in sports has given her a new outlook on life and has given her friends all over the Army who have suffered similar setbacks in their lives, Evans said.

Evans will compete in track and field, cycling and wheelchair basketball at the Warrior Games, which will be held from June 30 to July 8 in Chicago.

She is also a member of the U.S. team that will compete at the Invictus Games from Sept. 23-30 in Toronto. The Invictus Games were started by the United Kingdom's Prince Harry and are an international version of the Warrior Games.

Retired Master Sgt. Shawn "Bubba" Vosburg and Sgt. Patrick Haney also will represent Fort Bliss at the Warrior Games. Staff Sgt. Rachel Salemink, an Army reservist now living in Fort Wayne, Ind., has Fort Bliss ties and is going to the Warrior Games, too.
Vosburg, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo., who now calls El Paso home, qualified for the Warrior Games for the second straight year, like Evans.

Vosburg has battled post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury, depression and a series of wear-and-tear injuries up and down his body caused by a nearly 30-year Army career.

He will compete in the Warrior Games in archery, shooting, seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball and possibly swimming.

He volunteers with the Warrior Transition Battalion, which helps care for wounded soldiers, and is working on a degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso. His goal is to help other veterans with post-traumatic stress and give something back.

Haney, from Albuquerque, suffered a traumatic brain injury when a 55-pound weight fell on his head at a gym when he was deployed last year in Kuwait with the New Mexico National Guard. He will compete in archery, air rifle and wheelchair basketball.

Haney had competed in air rifle when he was part of the Junior ROTC program while attending Manzano High School in New Mexico.

Going to the Warrior Games feels like he is getting a second chance, he said. Haney continues to get treatment at the Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion but also volunteers there and runs the organization's archery and shooting facility.

Salemink, originally from Churubusco, Ind., has been battling hip problems. From 2015-16, she served as the human resources NCO for the Continental United States Replacement Center at Fort Bliss and then got treatment at the Warrior Transition Battalion after she injured her hip.

She will compete in track, cycling and swimming at the Warrior Games.

"It has opened my mind to a whole new world of things I can do and accomplish," Salemink said.

U.S. Army veteran, Ryan Major, trains for the sitting discus event for the Warrior Care and Transition's Army Trials as Fort Bliss Texas, March 31, 2017. About 80 wounded, ill and injured active-duty Soldiers and veterans are competing in eight different sports 2-6 April for the opportunity to represent Team Army at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games.
ALEXIS LIEBAL/U.S. ARMY PHOTO

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