Infamous as the menace of the neighborhood as a child, David Guzman hopes to be a famous chef in the future. The Purple Heart he wears with pride provides just a glimpse into the courage and resilience he musters up in the face of adversity.
Raised in Utah and Texas, David joined the Army in 1989 after graduating high school and technical school. After September 11, David was stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington, before being deployed to Iraq in July, 2004. As a convoy escort, many of the missions he undertook were at night. On one such reconnaissance escort mission, David suffered injuries to his leg, wrist, and mouth from a roadside bomb explosion. "Before I knew it, one of my sergeants was at my door, trying to pull the door open and drag me out. Later when they laid me on the little gurney, I saw a chunk of my leg fall off," says David.
David was transferred to Baghdad for treatment, but was returned back to his unit before his leg was healed. It was then he started experiencing symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "That's when I started living the explosion everyday, every few minutes. I couldn't even sleep because I'd wake up in a sweat," remembers David.
Finally, after a month, David was flown back home and learned the wounded leg had developed gangrene. "I went from 185 lbs. to 141 lbs. within a month," recalls Guzman. "At the time I really didn't know I had gangrene, because the doctor was keeping it from me."
Bruised from his waist to his ankle, "I told the doctor, 'If you have to take my leg, take it.'" It turned out the gangrene was caused by a piece of shrapnel left in his leg, and his body wasn't responding to antibiotics. However, after prolonged treatment, the doctors managed to save his leg.
Later, David was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). "I didn't know I had it until I went for a checkup," he says. "I'd be getting up from the sofa to get something to drink, and I didn't know what I was getting up for. I had to constantly remind myself of my appointments and things I needed to do."
But the wounded leg and TBI could not keep David from pursuing his interests. He earned a Culinary Arts associates degree and an associate's degree in Interdisciplinary studies from South Texas College. And working on bachelor degree of Agriculture Science and Wildlife Recreational Entrepreneurship from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. "I found out that cooking makes me happy. At the same time it feels good when my sons tell me they want to be chefs like me," he smiles.
David came across the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) website when he was recovering. "Organizations like Wounded Warrior Project and sites for veterans have given me the tools and knowledge I need to help other wounded soldiers," David notes.
As for his future, "I hope one day I can use my skills and be of help to WWP. If WWP ever plans a fundraiser with some celebrity chefs, I'd love to be part of it," David adds.