A local veteran and recent college graduate was gifted a car at a community ceremony on Saturday afternoon, a moment that left him speechless and incredibly thankful.
Tristan Stone, a six-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, was given a completely redone 2011 Chevy Cruze, which replaces the two-decades old Jeep he had been driving.
"It was falling apart," Stone said of his old ride. "This really expands my capabilities."
The car was donated by State Farm in partnership with Kelly Paint & Body, where the family friendly event was held. Stone was identified by ForcesUnited, a veteran-focused nonprofit in Augusta.
The weekend celebration was tied to the National Auto Body Council's Recycled Rides program, which pools fixers, suppliers and other vendors to repair and donate vehicles to those that need them across the country. The program began in 2007. More than 2,000 vehicles have been gifted since then.
Stone – before even seeing his new car – said he was at a loss for words.
"It's a little overwhelming," he continued. "I'm beyond ecstatic."
When the Chevy finally rolled into the shop, blue bow on the front and all, Stone appeared awestruck. He put his hands to his mouth and circled the car. And he thanked everyone who had a hand in the effort.
Robert Murphy, the director of veteran and military student success at USC Aiken, said Stone truly deserved it.
"He undersells himself," Murphy said, adding that Stone has helped more than 200 people find their future.
"He is paying it forward for so many veterans," ForcesUnited President and CEO Kim Elle said.
Stone is a graduate of USC Aiken. On Saturday, Stone said he hopes to get involved in higher education, and the new car lets him expand his scope and search.