Centra Mazyck

The 2008 DAV Freedom Award was presented to first Sergeant Centra Mazyck.

Every year, one participant is chosen for The Disabled American Veterans Freedom Award for Outstanding Courage and Achievement. This award is given to the veteran whose outstanding courage and achievement is an example to all disabled veteran athletes. The award recognizes the veteran who excels while taking a giant step forward in their rehabilitation process. This is the veteran who proves to the world that physical disability does not bar the doors to freedom.

As a first Sergeant with the 82nd Airborne, Centra Mazyck embodied the division’s “All American” reputation, as well as its motto: All the Way.

As a graduate of Jumpmaster School, she showed the courage and sense of adventure that embodies the 82nd. But four years ago, on a windy November day at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Mazyck became entangled with a fellow jumper and began plunging to the rapidly approaching ground.

The two jumpers untangled themselves just feet above the ground. The next thing the First Sergeant remembered was of drop-zone medics cutting away boots and clothing.

Upon waking up in the hospital, Mazyck was given a devastating prognosis: paralyzed from the waist down with little chance of ever walking again.

Sometimes stubbornness is the best attribute for a disabled veteran. The First Sergeant wouldn’t take that diagnosis as gospel and began the grueling rehabilitation process at the VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia.

Sports became a cornerstone of rehabilitation. Mazyck became a competitive athlete in basketball, weightlifting, slalom and softball.

A three-time Winter Sports Clinic participant, she also discovered the “miracles” that take place on this beautiful mountainside.

Through painstaking rehabilitation and the spirit that embodies this clinic, Mazyck is now able to walk again with the help of a cane.

A fellow veteran of the 82nd Airborne, DAV National Commander Rob Reynolds said he was initially drawn to this year’ recipient because of the similar ways in which the two soldiers were injured. But that was just the beginning.

Speaking of Mazyck, Commander Reynolds said: “There are people who have a special energy that fills a room. They lift others up with encouragement. I am proud that this year’s Freedom Award winner is an 82nd Airborne soldier, fellow DAV member and — most importantly — a disabled veteran who shares my belief about constantly striving to bring about the best in others.”