With her wide smile and shining brown eyes, you might think Crystal Gregan was an ordinary girl-next-door. She likes to shoot archery, go to the movies and run 5K’s. In a previous life, however, she gave up everything to defend our country and spent 12 months serving in Iraq.
What inspired you to join the National Guard?
9/11 and seeing men and women leaving their families and children to go serve our country. It’s an immeasurable sacrifice that so many take for granted.
I had just gotten out of beauty school and was cutting a soldier’s hair, and he was talking to me about his service and how much he loved it. I went to the recruiter’s office the next day…and signed the papers within the week.
What was your role?
Stateside, I was a 92Alpha, a Maintenance Logistics Specialist. Overseas, I was in a convoy support team as well as a PSD (personal security detail) team. I was a driver, a gunner and a TC (truck commander) while I was there.
What was it like serving in Iraq for 12 months?
It was a roller coaster ride; I was a little bit excited, a little bit scared and a whole bunch of unsure and insecure. The high points were meeting locals that were so happy to see us and have us there. Lows were, as most can imagine, death, destruction and poverty, but also being away from your family. As a soldier, we have the easy job; we are in our realm, we know what our job is and what is expected of us, we know what we are signing up for; it is our families that don’t. They don’t really know what is happening, where we are, what we are doing or if we are okay. They are the real heroes.
Any specific memories?
On my first mission outside the wire, we were rolling down a main highway, and in the center median there was a donkey. When my truck got to him, he started running alongside us. He stayed with us for about a half a mile before he ran out of energy. Every mission, for about three weeks, he was there and would do the same thing. It became a joke that I was going to load him in the back of my truck and make him my pet.
How did the Wounded Warrior program help you?
The Wounded Warrior program is a program/charity that helps wounded warriors get the help they need physically and mentally. I had multiple injuries upon coming home, and instead of the Army sending me home with injuries that would someday negatively impact my way of life, they did what they could to put me back together and integrate me back into the civilian population. It’s an amazing program.
Why did you leave?
My mom asked me to. She knew if I stayed in I would request to deploy again as soon as possible. So out of respect for my mom and her sacrifices, I decided it was best for my family if I got out.
You’re not from Texas, so why Plano?
Plano is a city of wealth and diversity that caters to all, but especially families. It is beautiful and has an amazing sense of home (even if your HOME is 1,300 miles away in Idaho).
I think that God had a plan for me and that Plano is where I was meant to begin my civilian life anew. I love TEXAS and Plano is where I fell in love with Texas. I love the people, the environment, the feel of Plano and the amazing things it has to offer—without living in Downtown Dallas.
Today, Crystal is a mom to 2-year-old Piper. “My values are the same as when I served, but my daughter completely changed my life…Have you ever seen The Grinch? You know when he says that his heart grew four sizes? That’s exactly what it’s like.”
For more on Plano’s veterans, visit the virtual edition of our November 2016 issue.