SAN DIEGO — On Veterans Day, a crew arrived at a Mira Mesa home to install a free solar panel system for a decorated sailor, Senior Chief Petty Officer Brandon Berry.
The solar panel system is courtesy of Semper Solaris, a local veteran-owned company.
“It’s a little embarrassing to be able to receive such an amazing gift from a company when there’s so many other people that are deserving. That I was picked — still in shock,” Berry said.
Senior Chief Berry enlisted with the Navy in 2000. He was at Camp Pendleton when he was deployed to Afghanistan and later Iraq. As years passed, he worked with SEAL platoons and explosive ordnance disposal teams.
Berry’s a warfare specialist, diver and parachutist. He received numerous awards, including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. But along with the medals, there were injuries.
“When you’re out there doing it, you don’t think much of it because that’s your job – but afterwards you realize how much a toll it takes on your body,” Berry said.
Berry says he endured IED explosions, suicide bombings and a diving accident. He deals with severe PTSD, along with recovering from numerous surgeries.
His story caught the attention of the Semper Cares Initiative which typically picks three veterans a year for free solar panel installation.
“My partner and I are both of alike mind — let’s do something, let’s give back somehow,” said Kelly Shawhan, a retired Marine and co-owner of Semper Solaris.
The husband and father of two boys says the free system is almost too good to be true — but most would agree he deserves it.
“It is extremely humbling. So when you almost want to say ‘No, I’d rather you give it to somebody else’ – Kelly was like, ‘Nope, this is coming at you.’ I was like, OK, I’ll take that help – thank you,” Berry said.