Editor’s note: The 124th Army-Navy game is sponsored by USAA.
BOSTON — Rob Gronkowski, the former NFL Patriots tight end and Super Bowl champion, returned to his roots in New England to partner with organizations donating new vehicles to military families in need.
The football legend helped gift the cars Friday to an Army and Navy family outside Faneuil Hall Marketplace ahead of the 124th Army-Navy game, which is set to be played Saturday at the Pats’ stadium outside of Boston in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
“Thank you guys for everything you have done for our country,” Gronk, the four-time Super Bowl winner who played for both the Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said to the current and former troops taking home the vehicles.
The pair of military families received the cars through a Recycled Rides program by the United Services Automobile Association, in partnership with the National Auto Body Council and other nonprofits, to showcase ongoing support for veterans and service members amid a weekend of football fanfare.
While a crowd quickly circled around Gronkowski, one of the true stars of the event, Army veteran Sgt. Robert A. Trevino, 30, watched from his wheelchair as the sheet covering his new vehicle was removed to reveal the truck underneath.
The Trevino family received a black 2022 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck.
Trevino served in the Army from 2014 to 2018, including with the 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Cavazos, Texas, and deployed in 2015 to South Korea as a wheeled vehicle mechanic.
“I’m very ecstatic, I can’t believe it’s real,” said Trevino, who lives with his wife in San Antonio, Texas, but has experienced transportation difficulties. “It will definitely help my wife and our future family go ahead and exercise regular things that regular families are able to do.”
A non-combat related car accident caused Trevino to become paralyzed, but accommodations in the vehicle will allow the former soldier himself to still operate it, including a driver’s spot that maneuvers so the seat can turn and lower to a level for the former soldier to more easily enter and exit.
Kyle Kohlgraf, 30, a 2nd class petty officer from Colorado Springs, Colorado, enlisted in the Navy in 2019. He currently works as an information systems technician aboard the Los Angeles-class submarine the USS Hartford, but he and his family have also faced transportation challenges.
The Kohlgraf family received a red 2019 Chevrolet Blazer sport utility vehicle.
“I’m extremely thankful and humbled,” he said. “This is a real blessing to have something that’s more reliable and going to last for the foreseeable future.”
Wayne Peacock, the president and chief executive officer of USAA, said at the event that the program has been in the works since 2019. He added that it’s a phenomenal opportunity to share a gift with two very deserving military families with tremendous and compelling stories.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media