A former combat medic has received a vehicle through the Driven to Serve program, at a Grand Forks car dealership.
On Tuesday, Nov. 10, Crystal Guzman received a 2018 Dodge Journey from Freedom Alliance, a group that supports wounded service members and their families, in partnership with U.S. Bank. Guzman, from Crookston, Minnesota, served 10 years in the Army National Guard before receiving an honorable discharge in 2006. She received the vehicle at a private event at the Lithia Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge dealership on 32nd Avenue South.
“I just want to say thank you to Freedom Alliance and U.S. Bank,” Guzman said. “This is more than I could have ever dreamed of. The stress it'll take off my family is huge.”
In 2005, Staff Sgt. Guzman deployed to Afghanistan as a medic where she treated many burn victims in combat zones. Among her other duties, she also treated Afghan women and children. From there, she was sent to Pakistan and was the first Medical Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Pakistan Earthquake Relief, after a devastating earthquake killed more than 80,000 people. She now suffers post-traumatic stress as a result.
“It takes a toll, not just physically but emotionally,” said Tom Kilgannon, president of Freedom Alliance, who traveled from Virginia to Grand Forks for the event. “At Freedom Alliance, much of our time now is dedicated to healing the emotional injuries, the moral injuries that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines carry with them and will continue to carry with them for a very long time.”
Freedom Alliance is a charitable organization that runs a variety of support programs, including car donations, college scholarships for children of service members who have died in the line of duty, mortgage-free homes and outdoor recreational trips for wounded veterans. The nationwide organization has 50,000 active supporters, according to Kilgannon.
The Driven to Serve program is a joint initiative between U.S. Bank and Freedom Alliance. Guzman’s is the 13th vehicle donated under the program since 2018. U.S. Bank will donate a total of 14 vehicles to veterans in 2020.
“Usually we read about this and say ‘that's really neat that they gave away a house in Seattle, or somewhere far away,’” said John Snustad, market president for U.S. Bank in Grand Forks. “To be able to do this here in Grand Forks for some Crookston neighbors of ours, it's so exciting.
Guzman attended the event with her husband, Pat, who served four years in the U.S. Marines as a combat engineer, before he received an honorable discharge. The couple’s two young children, Garrett and Aurelia, also were present. After speeches introducing Guzman and the program, the garage door to the show room was opened, and the vehicle brought in. Guzman, her husband and excited children all jumped in the car, given to her on the 245th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“It’s amazing,” she said.