SAN DIEGO – A local disabled veteran received a new solar roof for Veterans Day thanks to dozens of volunteers and a local solar company.
Paul Dugas held back tears as he described how it feels to have strangers offer a helping hand.
“A lot a gratefulness,” the Marine veteran said. “A lot of us came back, and we weren’t acknowledged, you now? I’m just grateful that they’ve come here to help.”
Dugas worked special ops and re-con igence gathering for the Navy Seals. It’s one of the toughest jobs in the service, and he says it prepared him for the fight of his life years later.
“I had to learn to walk again -- had to learn to use my hands. I had to learn how to eat, swallow -- every kind of therapy that they have.”
Dugas shattered his spine in a freak accident and was confined to a wheelchair for three years. And that was before he was diagnosed with cancer.
“You learn a lot of grit when you’re with the Marines,” he said. “We just don’t quit. I never thought for a minute that I wasn’t going to walk again.”
Dev Zaveri-Tabb, also a veteran, is one of Dugas’ neighbors. She heard about a contest called“Semper Cares,” which is sponsored by the Semper Solaris, a local solar panel installation company. It pays for home improvements for disabled veterans. Zaveri-Tabb nominated Dugas for the contest.
“I just thought it be a great way to help him,” Zaveri-Tabb said. “Then it actually happened! Who thinks you’re actually going to win!”
Kelly Shawhan, the co-owner of Semper Solaris, also served in the Marines.
“To overcome so much again and again – he’s just inspirational,” Shawhan said.
Shawhan said when his partner, Jon, called Dugas to tell him he had won a new roof, everyone got emotional.
“This guy is a former Marine re-con. That’s hardcore. He starts crying. Jon starts crying!” Shawhan said. “He starts crying and that’s the first day we met.”