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 disability does not bar the doors to freedom.
The 2011 DAV Freedom Award was presented to a soldier whose energy, enthusiasm and spirit have been inspirational to coaches, volunteers and—most importantly—fellow participants.
A native of Tennessee, Mark Brogan served in the Army ROTC at the University of Tennessee. In May of 2002, he began his career as a US Army Calvary Officer and was assigned to A Troop, 4th Squadron, 14th Calvary, 172 Stryker Brigade Team at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
From there, Brogan, now a Captain, was deployed to Iraq to lead a platoon of infantry soldiers in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On April 11, 2006, Capt. Brogan was leading a foot patrol in Anbar province in a town called Rawah on the Euphrates River. In an instant, his life was forever changed. A suicide bomber detonated explosives, claiming the life of his fellow soldier and inflicting violent damage to his brain and body.
Beyond survival, the road to recovery was difficult. With warrior spirit and amazing medical care, he set out on a path toward recovery. While his wife, Sunny, encountered what she described as something out of a horror film when she first encountered her husband after his injury, he was put back together again.
Though nearly losing his arm and having half of his skull removed to allow his brain to swell, the process of recovery restored his good looks. His speech came back relatively quickly. Though he completely lost hearing in his left ear as a result of his injury and endures traumatic stress, most people never know the extent of his recovery or the sacrifices he’s made on behalf of our nation.
Despite the challenges he faces, he and his wife have gone out of their way to bring light to the TBI issue and give the veterans who suffer in silence a voice. From the halls of congress to leadership in veterans service organizations, they have selflessly given of themselves to ensure our nation owes up to its obligation to those who’ve sacrificed in service.
At the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, this brave soldier showed his warrior spirit on the slopes and in his interactions with his fellow veterans. He has put his leadership on display. He’s contributed to our community and shown the true extent of his character.