Army Sergeant Christy Gardner was a military police officer. It was a job that allowed her to serve her country and remain active. Being active was -- and is -- an important part of Christy’s life.
Courtesy of DOD
On July 22, 2006, while serving as part of a peacekeeping mission in Asia, she was severely injured during a foot patrol. Although she cannot remember being injured, she recalls waking up in the hospital several days later with skull fractures, severe internal injuries, two missing fingers and spinal cord damage that caused leg paralysis below her knees. Dozens of surgeries and hundreds of hours of grueling rehabilitation later, Christy was medically retired from the Army in 2007. She moved home to Maine so that her family could assist in her recovery and care. Damage to her brain resulted in Christy having seizures and most of her memory was gone. She lost the hearing in one ear and her ability to speak. She had to learn words, spelling, grammar and math all over again.
Doctors told Christy that she would never be able to bathe by herself, cook, walk, ride a bicycle, or swim. In fact, they gave her a three-page listing of things they believed she would never again be able to do and labeled her “100% disabled” and “severely handicapped.” After being motivated by fellow injured veterans, she set out to prove them wrong.
Christy grew up as an athlete, playing just about every sport, but excelling in field hockey and track -- sports she played as a collegiate athlete at Long Island University in New York. After her injuries, she took up adaptive water- skiing, snow skiing, snowboarding, and surfing -- showing her doctors that they were sorely mistaken.
After suffering from severe pain caused by nerve damage, Christy made the decision to have both of her lower legs amputated. But again, that didn’t stop her. She also took up running, Crossfit and sled hockey and trained for the Paralympics. She has been a member of the U.S. Women’s Para Ice Hockey team and taught adaptive hockey and senior sports at her local V.A. hospital. She joined the U.S Parasurfing Team, and has trained for the 2021 Summer Paralympic Games to be held in August and September in Tokyo, where she hopes to compete in shotput and discus.
In addition to improving her own quality of life, Christy is dedicated to improving the quality of life for others. She fosters and trains dogs to be therapy and service animals, with a goal of having her own training program in the near future. She has published a book for children, “Lucky: Little Guy, BIG Mission,” co-authored by Eileen Doyon, on diversity and how someone with a disability can overcome obstacles. Proceeds from the book go towards helping Gardner train more puppies as therapy and service dogs.
Courtesy of DoD
Courtesy of DoD
Gardner is a member of the Central Maine Adaptive Sports board of directors, where she has helped start new childrens’ programs for sled hockey, track and field, kayaking, and cycling.
Christy has given back to so many, and A Soldier's Journey Home worked with The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which was established in honor of Stephen Siller, an FDNY firefighter who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11, to build Christy an ADA-compliant, mortgage-free smart home in Oxford, Maine. Her home was constructed in 12 days starting on June 7, 2021 and completed on June 19, 2021. See the story here.