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OnStar Turns 20:
Two Decades of Impacting Lives

It’s easy to forget that when OnStar was released in 1996,1 many of the technological innovations that we take for granted today didn’t exist. GPS didn't get much use outside of the military. The smartphone was 10 years away. Often, the best navigation system most people had was the map in the glove box. But OnStar imagined something different — a truly connected world, where drivers always had a real person there for them: an OnStar Advisor, ready to help in case of any emergency or need. 

Today, OnStar has helped nearly 10 million people get the help they needed, even when they couldn’t ask for it themselves. And as we celebrate 20 years of impacting lives, we’re still driven by the same passion that led us to the forefront of the connected car revolution two decades ago: to help make driving easier, safer and better for everyone. 

That’s why we were the first to bring satellite technology into passenger vehicles, and the first to bring Wi-Fi® and other innovative services to the connected car.2 Today, it’s what drives us to innovate new ways of connecting drivers with the help they need, and to give them peace of mind on the road. It’s been a journey two decades in the making — and we’re just getting started. Here’s to where the road takes us next.


Making a Difference for Heroes in Need

For 20 years, OnStar has relied on first responders and emergency personnel to save lives and keep families safe. Now, we’re giving back.

Andy Allison standing in dress uniform with another firefighter in front of a fire truck.

Andy Allison was a firefighter at the Lewisville Fire Department in Texas and is a father to two young boys. On August 6, 2012, he responded to a house fire. He and his captain went inside and extinguished the main body of fire and were working their way through the rest of the house when Allison’s leg touched an electric dryer. He was electrocuted for several seconds which resulted in career-ending injuries. Allison has dedicated his life to educating firefighters through his story and helping others manage occupational medicine and advocating for others suffering debilitating injuries in the line of duty. He is scheduled to speak at the upcoming FDIC Convention in March 2017 on safety and physical and financial preparation for firefighters.

Jason Bowmaster with his daughter standing under a tree next to a city street.

Jason Bowmaster was a lieutenant and engineer with the Jacksonville Fire Department in Arkansas and is the father of a 12-year-old daughter. On March 19, 2012, he and his captain were responding to a call for a vehicle that had run off the road and hit a gas main. They helped the driver, then they waited for the gas company to arrive. The driver called her son, who arrived and ran over the three first responders. Lt. Bowmaster sustained severe injuries, including brain trauma, nerve damage and a broken femur, ribs and clavicle. He and his wife have now dedicated themselves to raising awareness for the difficulties faced by those injured in the line of duty.

Ruben Garcia in uniform standing next to the open door of his patrol vehicle.

Ruben Garcia is a Deputy Sheriff at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Phoenix. Just after 11 p.m. on January 6, 2013, dispatchers received a call and issued an attempt to locate. Deputy Garcia saw the suspect’s truck, so he conducted a traffic stop. As Garcia approached the vehicle, the suspect shot him in the face and chest. Garcia has undergone nearly 70 surgeries since the shooting. Once he recovered in the ICU, he married his sweetheart of more than 20 years. 

Head shot of Eric John in front of an American flag.

Eric John has spent the majority of his career in public service, starting with the Macon Police Department. He later served at the Department of Corrections in Milledgeville, Ga., and the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office before joining the Macon Bibb Fire Department. With his role at the fire department, he was able to go to EMT school and join the Medical Center of Central Georgia Ambulance Service and the Georgia Search and Rescue Team (GSAR). These roles have allowed him to develop experience in many different medical and traumatic emergencies. His most memorable act of service was during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. John and other members of the GSAR team traveled to New Orleans to aide in search and rescue efforts.

On July 11, 2013, while responding to a collision, John was struck by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed, throwing him across five lanes of traffic. After eight surgeries and two years of intense rehabilitation in Atlanta, John is able to walk and has been able to return to some of his favorite pastimes of cooking and serving in the music department at his church. John’s positive influence in his local community continues to be seen. He has forgiven and became friends with the young driver of the vehicle that injured him, and is dedicated to helping and educating youth in his church and local community.

Head shot of Timothy Jones

Timothy Jones is a 25-year-old police officer in Park Forest, Ill., just outside Chicago. In the early morning hours of March 19, 2016, he joined a group of officers responding to a home burglary. The suspect emerged from the house through a window near where Officer Jones was standing. Jones radioed to alert fellow officers, then tackled the suspect, who shot him in the head and neck. He was transported to a local hospital, then airlifted to a trauma center. Family and fellow officers were told that if Jones did survive, he would never regain consciousness. But Jones survived, spent several weeks undergoing surgeries and has now been moved to a rehabilitation center, where he continues to defy all odds. He is beginning to talk and eat soft foods. Although his long-term prognosis is unclear, his spirit has inspired everyone around him. And though he had only served a year on the police force, he has impacted his community in many ways by volunteering at his high school alma mater, Tinley Park High School, to help football players make connections with colleges for potential scholarships and with the Special Olympics and Toys for Tots.

Head and shoulders shot of Peter Laboy in his uniform and helmet.

Peter Laboy is a police officer and father of four in Alexandria, Va. On February 27, 2013, he responded to a call that an individual was harassing a woman at a store. The man left the store driving a cab, and Officer Laboy pursued the suspect. The suspect stopped the cab, and as Laboy approached him, the cabdriver shot him in the head and sped away. Laboy was flown to Washington Hospital Center where he spent two months in the hospital and inpatient rehabilitation with a traumatic brain injury. Although the impact of his severe injuries prevented him from returning to the force, his long and arduous recovery was recently brightened when he received the Gold Medal of Valor for his service and bravery from the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

Marnee Smith in uniform standing next to an ambulance.

Marnee Smith is a paramedic with Cooke County EMS in Texas, wife to Wayne Smith of 22 years and the mother of five. On June 10, 2008, Smith was on her way to a call when she was involved in a car crash. Following the accident, she went through several surgeries before eventually losing her leg. Although this injury made it difficult for her to fully perform her duties as a paramedic, she was able to eventually return to the field. Smith also decided to use the incident as an opportunity to educate and remain in EMS, without being ambulatory, and is currently the lead instructor of the EMT program at North Central Texas College – Corinth Campus. 

Head and shoulders shot of Lindsay Prater

Lindsay Prater was a paramedic who became a dispatcher in May 2012. In this role Prater was able to do one of the things she loves the most — help people. During her tenure at the Hutchinson Dispatch, she assisted in a variety of situations, including helping a father deliver a baby at home and walking a girl through providing CPR to her father. In December 2014, the mother of two was diagnosed with Acoustic Neuroma and had a brain tumor removed two months later. Prater continues to recover.

Looking up at Michael Sullivan, who's standing on a ladder wearing his gear.

Michael Sullivan has been a dedicated member of the North Palos Fire Protection District (near Chicago) since 1997. A full-time plumber, Firefighter Sullivan would work weekends, holidays and anytime he was available, especially if the department was in need. On October 6, 2013, Sullivan responded to an attic fire. His crew was working to get water above the home’s ceiling when the thick plaster and cement collapsed on top of the crews. Other firefighters escaped, but Sullivan remained crushed under thousands of pounds of plaster, water and concrete. He sustained injuries to his knees, shoulder, neck and back, as well as nerve damage in his neck. While physicians have said he cannot return to work, Sullivan’s dedication to his district is evident through his upbeat attitude and continued friendships among his fellow firefighters in the department.

Tom Albert standing in front of a fire engine with his walker and using a neck brace, surrounded by four of his fellow firefighters.

Tom Albert has been a firefighter for more than 25 years, with the last 19 years as a Boulder firefighter in Colorado. Tom currently holds the rank of Engineer and is also a member of his department’s Fire Education Team and former 10-year member of the Dive Rescue and Swift Water Rescue Team. He is currently assigned to one of the busiest fire stations in Boulder. During a training exercise on June 13, 2016, he was hit from behind by the recoil of a hose line that violently broke loose from his engine after being overstretched 29 feet beyond its actual length. The hose launched him high into the air and 35 feet down the street. He suffered several serious injuries to his scalp, spine, legs and lungs. Although he suffered these significant injuries, his positive attitude throughout physical therapy treatment is an inspiration to his department. 

Head shot of Becky Walsh

Becky Walsh of Solomon, Kan., has been a dispatcher for Dickinson County Emergency Communications for more than a decade. She is a single mother of three daughters, all under age 12. On May 27, 2015, Walsh was at work when she experienced a terrible headache. She left work, hoping to rest, but later in the day when it didn’t improve, she went to her local hospital. Suspecting a brain aneurysm, the hospital sent her by ambulance to University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. There, doctors determined she had not one but four aneurysms and performed several brain surgeries to correct them. She is now recovering at home and doing well.

20 First Responders Allred F

Teresa Allred began her career as a dispatcher to make a positive difference in someone’s life. She joined Guilford Metro 911 in Greensboro, N.C., in 1991. In October 2014, she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer — an aggressive, invasive form of the disease. Allred went through her course of treatment, but her many treatments and health challenges have forced her to retire early. To assist with her and another colleague’s cancer battles, Allred’s colleague, Sandy Land, set up a fund, TLC Fund, to help other communicators across the state who are facing a traumatic life-changing hardship.

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Derek Boehm is a flight paramedic in Globe, Ariz. On December 15, 2015, he was returning to base after transporting a patient when his helicopter crashed in a remote location in the Superstition Mountains in near-freezing temperatures. The nurse and pilot were killed and paramedic Boehm was the sole survivor. Trapped and covered in jet fuel for almost four hours, Boehm had multiple lacerations and puncture wounds, bilateral femur fractures, a broken collarbone and multiple rib fractures. Civilian and military rescue teams found him and flew him to Maricopa County Medical Center for surgery and intensive care treatment. He still reports to work, and is committed to returning to his flight line. Boehm finds ways to help and contribute to the team atmosphere with unwavering motivation and dedication toward the flight paramedic industry. He has reached out to other survivors in the interest of improving the industry standards of safety and outcomes for patients.

20 First Responders Deshong  F

Pleasant DeShong was a firefighter-paramedic with Brevard County Fire Rescue in Florida and is a father to a young son. The morning of November 1, 2011, DeShong came upon a car that had struck a utility pole, breaking the pole in half. As DeShong approached, a passing vehicle hit the pole’s guide-wire and sent the broken pole hurtling toward the group. DeShong quickly pushed clear the driver and a bystander, but the pole hit DeShong, shattering his right leg and severely injuring his hip and pelvis. He endured multiple surgeries and worked hard in physical therapy, hoping to return to the job he loved. But a few days before his 36th birthday, he received the news that despite any further work, his physical abilities would not improve. DeShong made a significant personal sacrifice helping others, a fact that is greatly appreciated by his community.

20 First Responders Dulworth  F

Marty Dulworth is a police officer and father in Anderson, Ind. On July 26, 2012, he responded to a report of shots being fired and an officer down. As he emerged from his vehicle with his K-9 partner, Kilo, more shots were fired. Officer Dulworth and Kilo were both struck, resulting in the canine’s death and the amputation of Dulworth’s left leg. Dulworth worked hard and returned to full duty with no restrictions and continues his work with K-9 training. He is determined to continue supporting his family and be a strong role model for his children, showing them they should never give up or quit.

20 First Responders Quick  F

Luanne Quick works for Ulster County 911 full time and the Woodstock, N.Y., police department part time. On December 19, 2015, Quick was at work when she began to exhibit signs of a stroke. An ambulance rushed her to a local hospital. On December 24, Quick underwent carotid artery surgery, but unfortunately suffered two more strokes. After a long stay in intensive care, Quick is back home. She has begun to recover and is eager to return to work; she has begun working on a limited basis to continue supporting Ulster County 911.

20 First Responders Shupp  F

Tammy Shupp has worked for Routt County Communications Center in Steamboat Springs, Colo., for more than 13 years. For the majority of her career, she has held the position of lead dispatcher and was recently promoted to a supervisor position. The wealth of knowledge she possesses, along with her willingness to help, has proven to be an asset to the local law enforcement, fire department, and EMS community and members of Routt County. While working on a console on July 29, 2015, a call came in for a structure fire at her residence. While the home itself was a total loss, her family pets were rescued and she was able to retrieve some belongings. However, she did lose a large amount of sentimental, irreplaceable items. Shupp’s strength has been a source of inspiration to all that view her as a mentor or role model.

20 First Responders Tullier  F

Nick Tullier is a police corporal and father of two in East Baton Rouge, La. On July 17, 2016, he responded to a call in which six deputies and officers were ambushed by an individual with a rifle. Three officers were killed, and Corporal Tullier suffered traumatic brain injuries and massive abdominal injuries. Since the incident, Tullier has undergone more than a dozen surgeries successfully and continues to recover. He will be transported to a rehabilitation facility in Houston when his condition allows.

20 First Responders Aycox  V1

Jennifer Aycox is a paramedic in Jackson, Miss. In 2013, she and her partner stopped to provide care to a patient who had been hit by a car and was lying in the street. As she was helping the patient, a driver veered into her, striking her on her left side and causing life-threatening injuries. Her long, painful recovery included spending several months at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and weeks more at Methodist Rehabilitation Center. Because of her injuries and the care she still requires, Aycox is no longer able to perform as a medic. She remains in outpatient physical therapy, projecting a consistently positive attitude and setting an example for others not to give up and to work hard to overcome any obstacle. She even managed to stand for her wedding ceremony to a fellow EMS provider. Aycox continues to attended medic classes to keep her medic certifications, and speaks at local EMT classes to teach the importance of partnership and scene safety.

20 First Responders Donnell

Wendy Donnell is a veteran of the United States Navy and an EMS Lieutenant at the Lansdowne Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland. Donnell is also a proud mother to three daughters. In February  2016, Donnell was the attendant on the ambulance responding to a motor vehicle accident when a SUV struck the ambulance, causing it to hit a utility pole. She was trapped inside the ambulance for 48 minutes until first responders were able to extract her from the vehicle. As a result of the accident, Donnell has undergone numerous surgeries and rehabilitation. She continues to make process in her recovery and looks forward to responding to calls in the ambulance again soon.

First responders have some of the most dangerous and difficult jobs among us. We’ll likely never meet these police officers, firefighters, EMTs, medical personnel and others until something happens, yet we count on them to be there when we need them most. At OnStar, we’ve always been proud to count first responders as our partners. And in honor of their work and sacrifice, we’re giving back for our 20th anniversary celebration with gifts of $20,000 for first responders in need.

These brave men and women have helped to save lives, improve our communities and keep us safe. Now, we want to help support them and lift them up the same way that they’ve lifted up so many. Learn more about these first responders and their stories by scrolling through the pictures above, and check back as more are recognized for their hard work, dedication and sacrifice. 

OnStar Advisors: Connecting People, Changing Lives

While we’ve helped bring a number of new technologies to the connected car that have made driving easier and better for our Subscribers, the innovation we’re most proud of isn’t a piece of technology. OnStar has always believed in the power of the human connection, and for the past 20 years, our Advisors have been the foundation of what we do. Whether it’s finding a hotel for the night or requesting help from first responders during an emergency, OnStar Advisors have helped millions of people get the help they need, when they need it, all in virtual anonymity. 

"I Found an Avenue Where I Can Be of Service to People”

John Lester’s parents believed in a simple rule: treating people right. It’s a value they instilled in their son, and what led him to become an OnStar Stolen Vehicle Advisor. Find out more about all the voices behind the OnStar buttons.


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A Look Back and What Lies Ahead

We’ve connected with a lot of drivers over the past 20 years — and we’ve seen a lot of change too. Here’s a look back at our first two decades, and where we’re headed in the future.

A map of the U.S. covered in colored dots and the words "Technology Timeline"
A map of the U.S. covered in colored dots and the words "One billion." The "ON" in "billion" is the OnStar logo.

Disclaimer

  1. Visit onstar.com for details and system limitations.
  2. Available Wi-Fi requires compatible mobile device, active OnStar service and data plan. Data plans provided by AT&T.