I’m Crystal Daggett and I am the Distribution Center Transportation Assistant here at TRM Ministries. I coordinate anything that involves the trucks, like scheduling donation pick-ups, mapping routes for our drivers, and answering all calls about donations.
The Girl Scouts were a big influence on my life. Part of the Girl Scout promise is I will serve God, my country, and help people at all times. I have really strived to do that. I joined Girl Scouts at age 6. Even at that young age, I wanted to know who this God person was. I also knew to help others at all times and that I was going to be in the military. Even before we went to church, I knew Jesus was the man with holes in his hands. He cried with me, He held me, He was there for me. He kept telling me that this world was not meant to be like this. His help and hope is the only way I survived.
Topeka High Marine Corps Jr. ROTC encouraged me and when the Marine Corps wouldn’t take me, I knew God had different plans for me. I joined the Army and went in as a mechanic – very quickly learning that I wasn’t good at that. Everybody else already knew how to do the work and I knew nothing about it. They assigned me do a lot of other work. Now, I understand my purpose for being there – God had me in the Army to do ministry.
We created this event that was eventually called “Alternative Night.” It started out as “Taco Night” because tacos were affordable on a Private First Class income. Our group began with four or five guys and me. We were stationed in Germany and a lot of the other soldiers chose to go to the bars. We didn’t want to drink or go out, so we played board games and occasionally watched a “Veggie Tales” movie. As people told their friends who also didn’t want to go to the bars, it kept growing. The two requirements to be there were 1. no alcohol and 2. anyone who wanted to eat tacos, had to be there for the prayer. Some of the guys attending began praying for the food – even though many felt like they were discouraged from going to chapel by their units.
When we got ready to deploy to Iraq, a lot of people were asking me why I wasn’t scared to be deployed. To me, it was simple. I told them, “if I die, there is going to be a big ol’ welcome home ceremony when I go home.” I’m just an alien here on earth, it doesn’t matter if I’m in the United States or in Iraq. The Bible says, “we’re foreigners, aliens” and I always knew that if I died, I would just go home. 1 Peter 2:11 says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”
In Iraq, I was a .50 Cal machine gunner. Participating in war was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. One of the biggest blessings in my life also came when I got to witness to the Iraqi men all summer long. Then I was transferred to do supply work. I got hurt October 19th, 2004 when 300 pounds of cable fell on my back and crushed me. They told me I wasn’t going to walk again and they had to put a metal rod in my back. I kept telling them, “that’s not going to happen. God didn’t heal me from everything in my childhood just to have me paralyzed as an adult. He has a mission for my life.” When I got back to Germany, they did more x-rays before the surgery and found out that I have degenerative disc disease and not a crushed spine. They could not explain where those x-rays came from – I knew it was God’s miracle. I still had about two months of therapy because of all the soft tissue damage that was done.
Because I knew I was on assignment for Christ, even though I didn’t know what the mission was, I had to go back. When I got to Iraq, three Iraqi men came up, wrapped their arms around me and said, “Allah’s will would be for you to get hurt and stay hurt, but your God, Jesus Christ, healed you and we believe in your God, Jesus.” They gave me their prayer rugs and refused to worship Allah from that point on. That was the biggest and best mission that I did in Iraq.
2007 I was out of the Army, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Still today, I’m trying to figure that out. I’ve done a little bit of everything. I was engaged at one point while living in Texas. When my fiancé was deployed to Iraq for the third time, I was living with his parents and they decided that I wasn’t right for their son and kicked me out of their house. I had just started a job and went to seek assistance – only to be told I needed to quit my new job and then they would help me. I was homeless for about three months while I saved up enough for a deposit and other expenses. I lived with my Chihuahua – Jack Russell Terrier, Charlie Brown, and he stayed in doggie day camp while I was at work during the day.
I got my own place and eventually moved to Kansas City, where I went to school to get my Associates. I later went to Missouri Western in St. Joseph, Missouri, and started working toward a Wildlife/Conservation Management Bachelor’s Degree – which didn’t work out when I hit taxidermy class. Taxidermy brought back PTSD issues. It all hit me about the same time I had another friend commit suicide. From a group of 20 friends who served in Iraq, I’m now the only survivor. This really challenges me because everyone was young – it seems like it was way too early for them to die. I was going through a tough time.
I tried to seek help from a healthcare group located out-of-state and was told since I didn’t drink, do drugs, self-mutilate, have promiscuous sex and wasn’t homicidal or suicidal, I was fine and could not get help. I knew God was with me the whole way and I was trying to figure things out on my own – I also knew I still needed help. I turned to a few churches, but the church that I did seek help from was not very helpful – they kicked me out of their church. I sunk into a deep, dark hole that I didn’t know if I would be able to work my way out of.
From about seventh grade until high school graduation, I had lived here in Topeka and this was the closest thing to a home I ever had. I came back to find and surround myself with supportive people. The VA here in Topeka did help me. They also connected me with TRM for Christmas. I wasn’t working yet and was told that there were opportunities here at the Mission, and they really needed people to volunteer during Christmas. I thought about what I learned as a Girl Scout and all Christ had done for me in my life and knew helping here was my next mission. During Christmas, I worked sorting in the back and helping shoppers up front at the store. When Kay offered me a job, I accepted gladly. January 3rd. 2017, I started working part-time, and I’ve done a little bit of everything since. I started in Supply by straightening and cleaning the stocked new diaper area. Then, I just floated and filled in wherever they needed me. Now, I am working full-time as the Transportation Assistant.
If it wasn’t for the Mission and working around a supportive team, I don’t think I would be where I am today. Being at the Mission helps me to connect and volunteer in other ways that are meaningful, too. I am a mentor for the Dare-to-Dream program and also taking TUMI classes. I’m grateful the VA told me about the Mission. It really is great being a part of the TRM family – with all of you – and connecting guests and the Topeka community with the love and hope of Jesus.