On Dec. 14, Christmas came early for Brian Youssef. The Garfield, NJ, resident, who served three tours with the Marines in Iraq, received a refurbished 2017 Chrysler Pacifica with 5,000 miles on the odometer from Dynasty Auto Body in Paterson, NJ.
“I’m still in disbelief,” said Youssef, 33, standing in front of his new car at the Dynasty Auto Body on Pennsylvania Avenue. He was incredulous when his landlord told him about the Recycled Rides program, but he nonetheless submitted an application.
Youssef, who has been struggling since returning from Iraq, has had a string of bad luck. He held a series of odd jobs, including digging holes for ventilation units. His most recent job was managing a pizzeria in Ridgewood.
The pizzeria was sold, and the new owner decided to cut costs. He was laid off in early 2017. About six months ago, his car overheated and needed repairs. He did not have enough money to make the costly repairs.
“It drove me crazy,” he said of not having car.
Lack of transportation made it difficult for him to attend his medical appointments, attend classes and go to job interviews. He was injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion during his second tour in Iraq and has been receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
This didn’t stop him from returning for a third tour.
“I went back. I couldn’t get enough,” said Youssef. “You go back for your friends. You don’t go back for yourself.”
Youssef served his first tour from 2004--2005, second from 2006--2007, and third from 2008--2009, he said. He left the Marines in 2012, he said.
“My first year getting out was a big struggle,” he said.
The unemployment rate was more than 8 percent in 2012.
“I’d walk into a job interview; there would be 30 applicants waiting,” he said.
Meanwhile, he attended trade school and earned an HVAC certification, he said. He is attending Bergen Community College and actively seeking employment. At one point, he sought to become a police officer, but could not because of his PTSD.