Karolyn Smith

Karolyn Smith is a combat-wounded Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF2), author, and inspirational speaker. Karolyn’s message of Believe, Achieve and Succeed has led her from the gritty streets of Baghdad, Iraq as a crew serve-machine gunner, to the corporate offices of a financial firm providing high-threat security protection worldwide.

After years of struggling with injuries sustained and left untreated by Veteran Affairs (VA), Karolyn is recipient of the newest medical technology provided on behalf of Operation Mend at UCLA. The modus operandi of Karolyn’s own recovery is the cornerstone of her passion for helping her Warfighter/Veteran community transition home and heal from the wounds of war.

Karolyn is also creating a partnership with Shriners Hospital to bring Sophia to the bedsides of children afflicted with some of the most serious illnesses in the country. Providing comfort and aid for others through selfless service has always been the focal point of her one-to-one mentoring and public speaking. You can learn about Karolyn and Sophia’s story in more detail here:

To request Karolyn to speak at your organization or school, go to www.karolynsmithspeaking.com


Sophia was found just weeks old in a field; her umbilical cord was wrapped around her rear leg, cutting off blood flow. Sophia survived for weeks with no shelter, food, water nor any of the neccessities a newborn requires. Not one to give up so easily, Sophia  hung on and was rescued by the San Diego Humane Society and received a below the knee amputation of her rear leg.

Finding a second roadblock, Sophia would fall ill from the amputation and the caring vets at the Humane society would pair her up with her unsuspecting unsung hero, Leonidas. Leonidas himself was abandoned and also rescued by the same humane society- just weeks old, he too was abandoned and left to fend for himself.

Once the doctor’s medicine was no longer able to help, they decided to place Leo in Sophia’s cage and that’s when the truest of bonds and healing began. Weeks later both kittens would bounce back to a suprising healthy and now adoptable status and that is where their story started. Nearly two years ago, combat wounded Veteran Karolyn Smith would be scrolling through her facebook feed and instantly fell in love with the now dynamic duo of Sophia and Leonidas and there begins our story.

3 Paws Up

While the idea behind “Sophia the Bionic Cat” first began in early 2014, the concept took shape over the next couple of years with our partnership with FabLab San Diego. The San Diego Humane Society’s facebook page is where I first found two loveable furballs that would grow into Sophia and Leonidas, as their shelter given names were actually “Sprinkles” and “leprechaun”. Sophia would be rescued just weeks old, found in a field with her umbilical cord wrapped around her rear leg, just below the knee. She would survive being alone in the elements for weeks with a blood starved limb and an empty tummy. Sophia would get her amputation at the San Diego Humane Society and would soon find herself in the next struggle, trying to survive a medical procedure that even humans have a hard time overcoming. Sophia’s care team, noticing her not bouncing back after surgery, would find a tiny unsung Hero in Leonidas, a Bengal kitten, from a different litter, also brought into the Humane Society. Leo, only 8 days older, was placed with Sophia, and an instant and unbreakable bond formed. Leo was strikingly bigger than Sophia, and would be photographed shielding Sophia with his body and providing not just the warmth, but the love she needed. With a bear-like appearance, Leonidas could often be seen cleaning Sophia’s amputated side of her body and then using his body as a much needed pillow for the unusually tiny kitten, who became his best friend.

Put on display for adoption at 2 months old, the distinctive facial markings of Sophia and the bear- like size of Leonidas would be required to be adopted as a pair by the Humane Society. A well timed Facebook picture of this dynamic duo would capture the attention of San Diego, and begin a contest put on by the Humane Society to adopt the newest furballs.

Karolyn Smith, at the tender age of 29 would enlist in the US Army nearly a year after the attacks of 9/11. Fueled by the love of Country and a desire to take on a new undertaking, Karolyn would find
herself on the battlefield of Baghdad, Iraq in 2004- with her unit, the 127 th Military Police Company (Germany).This Soldier wouldn’t be fit to be just any Soldier, but a crew serve machine gunner, a job typically taken by her male counterparts. You could find Karolyn on top of a humvv manning some of the Army’s largest weapon systems and engaged almost daily with improvised explosive devices (IED), vehicle born Improvised explosive devices (VBIED), mortar attacks, small arms fire and even sniper and complex attacks. After a deadly year for her and her team, and after one to many IED’s, Karolyn decided her active duty time was completed (ETS) she would continue her service with a Military Police Reserve unit in her hometown of San Diego, California. Karolyn would spend the next 8 years contracting in the security industry while silently suffering with Post- Traumatic Stress injury {PTS(I)}, a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).Karolyn would transition into the VA (Veteran’s Affairs) system and soon become one of those all too familiar stories of being abandoned by the very medical system that was discharged to look after her. After years of chronic spinal pain, Karolyn would stumble onto Operation Mend and receive the newest biotech technology.

At first it was thought that after seeing “Sprinkles and “Leoprechaun” on Facebook and knowing it was a contested adoption event, that the kittens would of already been spoken for. That quickly changed as Karolyn learned that she too could apply for adoption of the pair. Not fit to sit on the sidelines once again, Karolyn engaged her Warfighter/Veteran community and enlisted them with a mission; go to the Human Societys page and tell them why Karolyn would be the best fit- and the story soon became “Disabled Veteran adopts Disabled Kitten!”

Once Sprinkles and Leonidas were adopted, the humane Society cautioned that Sophia was quite certainly a premature kitten, would always be small, and may have some residual issues being such a small frame and having only one full back leg. In true form, Karolyn didn’t see sophia’s issue as a disability as the articles stated, but as a special project that deserved a unique outcome.

There’s a lot of technology incorporated into Sophia the Bionic Cat, almost as much as there is in the spine of Karolyn, and there is a lot of exciting innovations to come.

“Sophia the Bionic Cat” is the first feline in History to have a 3D printed prosthetic that was designed by a team that consists of highschool students all the way across the spectrum to those writing
doctorate paperwork in the technology field. We will often tell stories of struggle and we hope to not make you shed too many tears, but through struggle comes the ability to Lead, Achieve and Believe, which is the motto here.