During a firefight in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Sgt. Stephanie Vazquez suffered a catastrophic injury that would lead to the amputation of her lower left leg.
Back home, she has faced financial difficulties and a breast cancer diagnosis.
Through all these obstacles, the 41-year-old maintained a positive outlook that allowed her to rehabilitate faster than expected and take up snowboarding and sled hockey. But she admitted that a recent ceremony at a car dealership in Nashville, Tennessee, caused her to fight back tears.
Freedom Alliance, a charitable organization that helps wounded warriors, and U.S. Bank partnered to present her with a 2018 Dodge Journey as part of the bank’s Driven to Serve initiative that pairs available vehicles with service members in need.
“When I found out about this, I said, ‘God could not have arranged a more perfect time,’” said Vazquez, who is medically retired from the Army and has two grown children. “I can’t put it into words how much this means.”
The donation was the 24th under the Driven to Serve program since 2018 and the 17th vehicle with Freedom Alliance. U.S. Bank has partnered with another organization that supports military families, Operation Homefront, to provide the seven other donations.
Vazquez joined the Army in 2005 and found a calling after she trained to lead a Female Engagement Team. In this role, she embraced a critical but dangerous task: communicating with women in Afghan villages to ferret out the location of munitions and to gather intelligence.
“That was a deployment where I felt like I was doing something to make a difference,” she said.
On one early-morning mission in 2011, her unit was awaiting a helicopter pick-up when the Taliban launched an attack. As the soldiers battled their way out, Vazquez suffered a traumatic leg injury, but she waited days to be transported out of the country because she wanted to first brief her replacements.
She went through numerous surgeries to restore the leg, but ultimately the damage required amputation in 2017. She credits a sled hockey coach for motivating her during her rehabilitation.
Vazquez is currently living in Nashville with her 19-year-old daughter, who is in college, and her 21-year-old son, who is working. The car will allow Vazquez to drive to medical appointments related to her cancer diagnosis and help the family juggle other necessary trips.
Vasquez said she has tremendous gratitude for everyone at Freedom Alliance, U.S. Bank and the Rhythm Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram car dealership.
“The car is such an immense help,” she said. “It’s truly a blessing.”