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A veteran says a service dog revived her 'passion and purpose,' and now she wants to help others

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Gretchen Evans sits at a picnic table, affectionately looking down at her service dog, a black lab named Rusty.
Dogtopia
Gretchen Evans lost her hearing due to a mortar blast in Afghanistan. After a doctor told her she couldn't do the things she once did, Evans turned to a service dog to help regain her independence.

After adjusting to her own loss of hearing, retired Army Command Sergeant Major Gretchen Evans is coming to Overland Park to help raise money for service dogs.

At age 19, Gretchen Evans joined the military to gain a trade skill and receive educational benefits, but within weeks of joining the Army, she knew she'd found her purpose.

While deployed to Afghanistan, the sergeant major was severely injured by a mortar blast that left her deaf, abruptly ending a military career that spanned 27 years.

Struggling to adapt to her new way of life, Evans describes being at the end of her rope, until she learned she could be paired with a hearing service dog, allowing her to regain her independence.

"I'm going to get a service dog that's going to be able to hear for me so I can integrate into society and find my new passion and purpose," Evans said.

The retired sergeant major joined Up To Date to express the importance of service dogs ahead of a fundraising event with Dogtopia-Overland Park.

Dogs Save Lives!, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 23 at Chicken N Pickle-Overland Park 5901 West 135th St. Overland Park, Kansas 662223. Purchase tickets here.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz
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