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ALPINE, Calif – A Vietnam War veteran had solar panels installed on his Alpine home courtesy of Semper Solaris.

“I never won the lottery but I would think this is pretty close,” Bob Blumenstock said. “It’s really going to help a lot.”

The Memorial Day gift is part of the San Diego-based company’s Semper Cares Initiative to give back to veterans. 

Kelly Shawhan is a retired Marine and one of the founders, along with John Almond. 

“It’s been a win-win,” Shawhan said. “There hasn’t been one of these that hasn’t been like, I’ll be crying before the end of the day! This just how it goes.” 

Blumenstock served in Vietnam in 1968. He was a Navy corpsman who served as a dental technician behind enemy lines supporting the 3rd Marine Division. 

“It was kind of exciting, actually,” Blumenstock said. “It was a little scary, but it was rewarding being able to actually do some good for Marines and civilians there.” 

He was also part of a team that visited villages to treat Vietnamese civilians, which many have fueled his early desire to give back. 

“I realize that these people were more or less victims of their situation and have a deep appreciation for what it was like to be an American and be able to go home after 12 months, whereas these people had to suffer for a lifetime,” Blumenstock said.

But he too, suffered. He was first poisoned in Vietnam by Agent Orange and later the victim of water contamination at Camp Lejune, where he was stationed after he returned from the war. 

“My exposures were being literally crop dusted,” Blumenstock said. “I think they were C-130 cargo jets that were outfitted with sprayers. They would fly over the base.” 

He and many others still struggle with medical issues, but his has not dampened his spirt or drive to help others. And that, he says, starts with serving your country. 

“We really should serve our country in one way or another,” Blumenstock said. “It doesn’t matter what you do or where you do it, but I think that it may give you more appreciation of what we have here.”

Semper Solaris is accepting nominations of other deserving veterans.