Motivated by memories of family members who never made it home, Douglas High graduate and Gold Star Family member Spc. Jake Evans came home from the Nevada Army Guard’s Best Warrior Contest as the state’s 2023 Soldier of the Year.
Evans, 25, a critical care flight paramedic with the 2/238th Aviation unit based in Reno, earned the title of Soldier of the Year in early April after he outlasted an international field to win in the Nevada Guard’s Best Warrior contest held at the Hawthorne Army Depot. The Best Warrior contest is a military multi-event competition that tests a Soldier’s fitness, marksmanship and military knowledge. This year’s Best Warrior contest included servicemembers from Fiji and Tonga; those two countries are teamed with Nevada in the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
With the win, Evans, who now resides in Reno, earned a trip to Hawaii to compete in the Region VII Best Warrior contest May 5-12. The Nevada Guard’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, Staff Sgt. Alec Canepa-Teal, will also travel to Oahu for the competition. At the regional contest, Evans will compete against Soldiers from Hawaii, Guam, California, Utah, Arizona and Colorado
Evans, who graduated as Douglas High’s Senior-Scholar Athlete in 2016, hails from one of the most visible Gold Star families in Douglas County. A Gold Star family is one that has suffered the loss of a family member during war.
Evans’ grandfather, Norman, and great uncle, David Lynn, were both killed in Vietnam and his uncle David L. (son of Norman) died in 2011 from injuries suffered in Iraq. The sacrifice of the Evans family is recognized by the state of Oregon with Fallen Hero Memorial Highway signs for the three on Highway 39 (The Crater Lake Highway) in the vicinity of Klamath Falls.
Evans’ father is Jeff Evans, who was the Douglas High athletic director and dean of students from 2005-2017. The senior Evans is an ardent supporter of Honor Flight Nevada and has volunteered to support Veterans on two trips to Washington, D.C., to assist Veterans as they visit memorials dedicated to their eras of service.
“There is a legacy of military service in my family that I want to continue,” Evans said. “The thoughts about my family members who couldn’t finish out their military careers spurred my efforts.”
Jake Evans said his family history even helped him decide upon his military occupation. As a critical care flight paramedic with the 2/238th, Evans is among the first to reach injured servicemembers on the battlefield. He’s trained to be lowered to the ground and subsequently raised with casualties via the unit’s Black Hawk helicopter hoist systems. He then provides immediate medical care to casualties as they are transported via the medical evacuation helicopters to field hospitals.
“I opted to become a flight medic to help other families avoid becoming a ‘Gold Star’ family,” Evans said. “Becoming a flight medic is the best way for me to support that goal.”
Although born in Las Vegas, Evans spent the majority of his youth in Minden. At Douglas High, he participated in basketball, football, track and field, and cross country for the Tigers. According to the Record Courier, Evans ran the 400 meters in 54.09 and he scored 1.5 points per basketball game during his senior year which culminated with his receipt of the school’s Scholar-Athlete award.
After high school, Evans attended the University of Nevada, Reno, and he graduated in 2020 with a degree in International Affairs. During college, Evans began his affiliation with the medical field by working as an emergency trauma technician at Renown Hospital.
After acquiring his degree from UNR, Evans enlisted in the Nevada Army Guard as combat medic. His civilian occupation nowadays is very similar as he works as a paramedic for the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority.
At the Best Warrior contest held on the 147,000 square acre depot in Mineral County, Evans caught a break when combat lifesaving skills were included as an event – one in which he excelled thanks to his military and civilian training. He also placed first among the junior enlisted Soldiers in a modified combat fitness test and first in the 12-mile ruck march, which he finished in 2 hours, 42 minutes.
This year’s Best Warrior contest included a total of 18 competitors, including four Tongan Marines and four Fijian Soldiers.
Before leaving for the Aloha State, Evans has a busy schedule lined up in advance of the regional competition. He has a 389-page primer to read to prepare for the contest’s oral examination board and he plans to devote several hours each day in the UNR pool practicing his swimming – a likely event in the state composed of 137 islands.
“A Best Warrior contest will test you to a whole new level of your physical ability,” Evans said.