Gilbert Army veteran keeps cool with free air conditioning unit

Jun 8, 2021, 4:25 AM

PHOENIX – Two nonprofit groups and a Valley HVAC company came through in a cool way last week for a Gilbert Army veteran and his family.

The Arizona Coalition for Military Families, Operation Homefront and AAA Cooling Specialists teamed up to provide Derek Tope’s home with a free air conditioning unit worth around $3,700, according to a press release.

Tope, 34, was deployed on three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and is disabled as a result of his service as a medic and infantry sergeant.

He now relies on his mother, Sharon Grassi, for his daily needs. She said the family’s finances are tight and called the gift “a godsend.”

“Last year, our nearly 30-year-old AC unit died. We patched it up and have been hoping it would last.”“As the parent-caregiver to my disabled military son, we don’t look like the standard military family, but we are. My son’s disabilities impact our finances, home life, work and friendships,” Grassi said in the release.

The Arizona Coalition for Military Families and Operation Homefront selected Tope for the new AC unit, which Scottsdale-based AAA Cooling Specialists installed on Thursday.

“We are especially grateful for our veterans and for caregivers who are so selfless in putting others before themselves,” AAA Cooling owner Erin Robert said in the release.

“We are excited to be able to help both and relieve some of the family’s stress by replacing their broken AC unit.”

Operation Homefront provides financial and housing assistance for military families nationwide.

The Arizona Coalition for Military Families offers support and resources to the state’s military families through its Be Connected program. Call 866-4AZ-VETS (429-8387) or visit for more information.

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Special thanks to the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family for their partnership and support.

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