GILBERT, Ariz. — A Gilbert military family is counting their blessings after receiving a new air conditioning unit from a Valley company in honor of Memorial Day.
The gift came just in time for the state’s first triple-digit days this year.
The donation was a bright spot for the family, who has faced their share of challenges throughout the years.
“He joined [the military] just straight out of high school,” Sharon Grassi said.
Her 34-year-old son Derek Tope is a US Army veteran, who served three combat tours as a medic and infantry sergeant in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tope returned home from his tour with PTSD and numerous other physical and mental disabilities, like millions of other American service members.
“We really didn’t understand traumatic brain injuries,” she said. “He had had multiple concussions.”
Tope is now medically retired and 100% disabled, living with his parents, and requiring daily support and medical care.
“As a caregiver, we have a hard time working,” Grassi said. “The more that we do, the more we can’t do. It kind of impinges on finances, it impinges on friendships. I spend a lot of time in the presence of heroes though, so that’s a wonderful part of it.”
Last year, the family’s 30-year-old AC unit died after being patched up. The family was out of air conditioning until a Valley company heard about their need.
“I think a lot of the parent caregivers don’t get as much credit,” said Erin Robert, owner of AAA Cooling Specialists.
The company, who heard about the family’s need through the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, stepped up to help and donated a new AC unit valued at more than $3,700 dollars.
“Super grateful that we can be here to help our community and Derek specifically,” Robert said. “The heat is definitely here, so they are going to be very nice and comfortable.”
Grassi said that the new AC unit was much needed.
“The AC unit that they are replacing covers an area in our house that we do wound care and this AC unit is going to be helping cool us off,” she said.
Relieved to cool off, while feeling a sense of gratitude.
“It’s wonderful to have that recognition and to have the community support us and make it a little easier for us financially,” she said.