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NEWS | March 24, 2024

It’s not about making history it’s about making a difference.

By MaryTherese Griffin ARCP

Three powerhouse women… one still competing, one as a coach/mentor, the other as a cadre but all with one common bond. They are all Soldiers who were injured at some point and all a part of Team Army. Lavone Kendrick, Casey Turner, and Brandi Evans, all three made their mark on Team Army and Team US respectively between 2015 and 2019, but history will show how their recovery influenced the mark they are currently making.

At the 2024 Army Trials at Fort Liberty North Carolina, with a nod to Women’s History Month, the three dynamos came together to share thoughts on their journey and how being on Team Army and recovering with adaptive sports changed their lives.

For Retired Army Sgt. Brandi Evans, who is working as a coach/mentor at Army Trials this year, the memories of recovering from being hit by a car and going the adaptive sports route were humbling. “My adaptive journey didn’t start until 10 years after my injuries. I am continuing my journey, and it has opened many doors for me athletically and personally. I am a better person knowing other athletes with similar situations.”

For Major Casey Turner who is now the ARCP Adaptive Reconditioning Officer In Charge, the pathway here from her injury she says is a road map to growth. “Team Army kept me from my med-board and allowed me to continue my professional career and give back to the adaptive sports community but also developed me better as a Physical Therapist in my civilian job as well as in the Army Reserve. It helped me grow in every aspect of my life.”

Retired Army Sgt. First Class Lavone Kendrick credits the journey on Team Army with being part of her everyday life all these years later. “It has helped shape me in my continuous growth, my continuous education and empowerment in myself, and knowing that being a part of something greater than me can keep on going even when I am out of uniform, “said Kendrick.

All three have copious amounts of medals between them but reflect on their victories with individual pride revealing the foundation of the woman and Soldier within.

“My greatest accomplishment was at Invictus, but I didn’t win any gold medals. I was presented a gold medal from the gold medalist who thought that my response to a wrong had inspired her and the team to look at me in a way that I didn’t think anything of it, but to them it was inspiring and that’s the greatest medal that I have is to inspire somebody else,” said Kendrick who had just lost her mom at the time, and even though she was wronged, her light still shown through.

Brandi Evans made history as a part of team US at the 2018 Invictus Games in Australia when she selflessly encouraged a competitor to cross the finish line before she did, giving up the higher medal. To her, it's not about the medals.

“It is moments like that, that will be remembered long after those medals lose their shine… What someone said to you, what someone did for you, or the way they made you feel…this is what will be remembered.” Evans works at the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit as a civilian and encourages this mentality of good sportsmanship.

Major Casey Evans, who won Ultimate Champion at the 2019 Warrior Games says it’s beyond the medals now, and for good reason. “It’s a full circle moment for me to be here mentoring athletes, as a former athlete but also to help develop and grow this program to support the next generation. This is something that will be here for years to come. So many people helped bring me here and helped me with my personal growth and development.”

Being on Team Army doesn’t define them, but for Kendrick, Turner, and Evans it helped develop them into who they are with their desire to give back.

“I want to start this challenge for Veterans called “Stay moving – stay alive.” We must stay moving. We must be physically and spiritually connected to each other in the community. My love now is pickleball. Your movement and age don’t matter. I want to pull Veterans together out of the VA and in the community to play pickleball. It’s bubbling inside of me, and I must make it happen. I want to help. I don’t want to make history I want to make a difference,” said Kendrick.

“I try to continue to give back to the program that gave me so much. I want to continue to pay it forward by helping other Soldiers. I want to help reach Veterans, like Kendrick is doing, and show them adaptive sports and help be a part of their journey,” said Evans.

As Major Casey Turner reflects on her journey, she recognizes the impact she can now make with new Soldiers. “There are Soldier athletes here now that are in the same spot I was in five years ago that could use that little bit of encouragement, even if it's not in the adaptive sports world, I want to help.”

It truly is not about making history it's about making a difference.