America’s VetDogs Graduate Gretchen Evans Honored with the Pat Tillman Award for Service at The 2022 ESPYS

SMITHTOWN, NY (July 21, 2022) America’s VetDogs, a national nonprofit that provides specially trained guide and service dogs to veterans, active-duty service members, and first responders with disabilities, today announced that retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Gretchen Evans, a two-time America’s VetDogs program graduate, was honored with the Pat Tillman Award for Service at The 2022 ESPYS. The 2022 ESPYS aired Wednesday evening on ABC, live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service is given to an individual with a strong connection to sports and who has served others in a way that honors the legacy of the former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger.

“Many members of our team have had the opportunity to get to know Gretchen since she first graduated from our training program in 2015 and, with her current service dog, Rusty, in 2020. She is truly an American hero and an inspiration who demonstrates every day what it means to live without boundaries,” said John Miller, president and CEO of America’s VetDogs and its sister nonprofit, Guide Dog Foundation. “We all cheered loudly when Gretchen received the Pat Tillman Award at The ESPYS and are proud to see one of our own recognized with such a prestigious award.”

Watch the video about Gretchen from The 2022 ESPYS at:

Be inspired by her powerful acceptance speech at:

Gretchen is a highly decorated veteran, author, and athlete. After suffering a life-altering injury while serving in the Army, Evans founded Team UNBROKEN, an adaptive racing team of mostly veterans who have experienced life-altering injuries, illness, or traumas to compete in World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji. The non-stop, multi-day expedition competition sees teams traverse mountains, jungles, and seas. The team’s creation grew out of Evans’ involvement with a number of veteran advocacy groups where she mentored and coached fellow veterans with stories that echo her own extraordinary path. After joining the Army in 1979 to help pay for her education, Evans quickly realized, as she says, military life was her calling. During her 27 years of service, she worked her way up to Command Sergeant Major, the highest non-commissioned officer rank in the military. In 2006, she was deployed in Afghanistan when she was severely injured by a rocket blast, landing her in an Army hospital in Germany. When she awoke, Gretchen learned that she had suffered total hearing loss and a traumatic brain injury, which would end her military career. In the months to come, suffering from severe depression and PTSD, she struggled to find her footing, but then found a path forward through mentoring and competition. 

Gretchen has since become a nationally known motivational speaker and been inducted into the U.S. Army Women’s Hall of Fame and U.S. Veteran Hall of Fame – all on top of a military career that saw her receive numerous medals and awards from the Bronze Star to a Presidential Unit Citation Medal, several Global War on Terrorism ribbons, and six Meritorious Service Medals.

Gretchen’s inspiring story was featured in The VetDogs Sentinel newsletter in 2015. Gretchen was teamed with her first service dog, Aura, earlier that year. In 2020, she returned to America’s VetDogs to train with her current service dog, Rusty, who was by her side at The ESPYS. Read the profile on our blog .

About America’s VetDogs

Since 2003, America’s VetDogs ( has trained and placed guide and service dogs to provide independence, enhanced mobility, and companionship to veterans with disabilities from all eras. In 2015, America’s VetDogs opened its programs to first responders, including fire, police, and emergency medical personnel. America's VetDogs is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by the Guide Dog Foundation and serves clients from across the United States. America’s VetDogs relies on contributions from generous individuals, corporations, service clubs, and foundations to fund its mission to help those who have served our country live with dignity and independence. It costs over $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and place one assistance dog, but America’s VetDogs provides its services completely free of charge to the individual. America’s VetDogs has been accredited by both the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International.