Overcoming Battle Scars
U.S. Marine Sgt. Carlos R. Evans had completed three tours of duty in Iraq prior to his deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. While leading his patrol in Afghanistan on May 17, 2010, Evans stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both his legs and his right hand. His fellow soldiers applied four tourniquets to try to slow the bleeding while they transported him to a medical unit.
Evans spent the next two years in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., during which time he questioned his will to live.
"I thought I was going to die sometimes, and I even wanted to die," Evans says.
The prospect of returning to his family and trying to adjust to life with his injuries proved especially difficult for Evans.
His wife Rosemarie received word of the explosion while in Puerto Rico alongside family members who helped to care for the couple's four-year-old and three-month-old daughters. Like her husband, Rosemarie says she struggled to reconcile their circumstances with God's providence. Rosemarie spent three months by her husband's side at the hospital, feeling conflicted while their daughters remained with family in Puerto Rico.
Evans recalls the apprehension he felt when his daughters joined him and his wife in Washington, D.C. However, his older daughter put his anxiety to rest when she approached his bed for the first time to touch him and say, "I love you Papi."
When Evans had recovered enough to start therapy, his wife and daughters moved into an apartment in the nation's capital. Frustration set in for Evans as he realized that he would never be able to do tasks that had once come so easily.
"I started to feel sorry for myself as a victim and wonder how my family could be with me," Evans says.
Rosemarie recalls similar emotions, acknowledging that while she tried to be as supportive as possible, the injury threatened to drive a wedge between the couple. Carlos had frequent mood swings, and Rosemarie prayed that God would revive her husband's will to live.
According to Evans, a turning point came during a ski trip that he and Rosemarie took seven months after the injury. After only one week of receiving training from an instructor, the legless Evans descended down a hill on a ski sled in front of cameras and news media crews waiting to interview him.
"All the way down I was just thinking to myself, 'I can't fall,'" Evans says.
When he reached the bottom, Evans turned to look at the hilltop and prayed, "God, if you gave me strength to do this, you can strengthen me to do anything." Invigorated by the experience, Evans has since completed multiple marathons using his hand cycle.
The Evans family had help during the recovery process. Members of their home church, Capilla Cristo Redentor in Spring Lake, North Carolina, visited Evans in the hospital and sustained the family during the long road to healing. Pastor Francisco Soltren has led the church, which is located near the Fort Bragg military base, since 1990. Soltren has mentored many military personnel during his 25 years at the church, whose pastoral staff includes two veterans.
"People don't know the stress military personnel go through," Soltren says, "but we are committed to help them."
After Evans' release from the hospital, the family traveled to North Carolina to be at Capilla Cristo Redentor for the first time since his injuries.
"Here I was in church, scared, 30 years old with a new body I didn't want," Evans says. He laughs in remembering the moment he realized he could no longer clap to the music; Rosemarie offered her hand to clap with his.
Despite Evans' reservations, God moved powerfully in the church service. Evans remembers praying, "I don't know how to live this way, but I open my heart to you, Lord." At that moment, Evans says he received a new understanding of his own pain and healing in light of the Cross.
"I knew that I was no longer a victim, but I had overcome in Jesus' name."
Evans' medical retirement from the military opened the door for him to pursue ministerial credentials through the North Carolina District of the AG. Evans responded to what felt like a natural call to start C.R. Evans Ministries and travel internationally as an evangelist, speaking at retreats, camps, and outreaches.
"I consider myself blessed that the Lord has trusted me with these scars that testify to his strength," Evans says before repeating what has become his central message since the injury: "Today I have one hand and I'm touching more lives than when I had two hands. Today I have no legs and I'm leaving footprints on many hearts."