Like so many who have grown up in lower socioeconomic communities, the daily struggle is one that comes with its fair share of trials, tribulations, and temptations. In what can easily be called trial by fire, Jose Navarro, knows the struggle all too well, and in the latest episode of Roll Models, presented by Quaker State and Shell Lubricants, he shares his explosive story.

Born and raised in Pomona, California, Jose was raised by a single mother who spent most of her time working and trying to pay the bills. With little time left to spend with him, Jose spent most of his days running with the wrong crowd, but years later found solace when he enlisted in the Army and became a paratrooper who was deployed to Afghanistan for 15 months. During his time in the forces, Jose was a scout platoon with a team of 14. During one particular incident, 12 of his team were wounded when they were ambushed while on the way to a village on the side of a mountain. Of their convoy, Jose’s truck wound up getting torched while four other vehicles were blown up in a standoff that lasted six hours.

During those six hours, Jose recalls being four hours into the melee when he took a direct hit with an RPG on his right upper thigh. With severe injuries, the most mentally traumatic part of the hit was the visual sight of his femur sticking out, as well as some of his guts. According to doctors, it was a miracle that he was able to keep his leg but even after surgery the road to recovery was long and painful. Bound to a wheelchair for two years, Jose was in and out of the hospital for a total of five years while undergoing over 100 surgeries.

The ordeal placed him in dire straits. Feeling desperate, alone, and hopeless, he spent years isolating himself and resorting to meds and alcoholic consumption. He basically felt like no one was there for him and he wanted to die.

But much like how his enlistment initially saved him the first time around, this time a different sort of enlistment pulled him out of the gutter. That enlistment came by way of his car club brothers who spent plenty of time talking with him. Along with their help and creative outlets, he was able to see the world with love and while talking about lowriders and engaging in random conversation, he found light at the end of the tunnel and in turn landed himself a project car. All these experiences changed his mentality and lowriding became the much-needed form of therapy that gave him something to look forward to.

In an almost analogous way, the rebuild of his project 1968 Impala marked the rebuilding of his own life. Much like he had to take the car down to basics, he did the same with his life and rebuilt it one step at a time. In the end, the completion of his ice blue-colored classic was a sign of the times and it became a mobile milestone of his triumphant return to a normal life. And while this is just a small overview of his story, there is so much more to share, so tune into our Roll Models series to hear the complete story that is sure to inspire.