CHICAGO – Lance Corporal Luis Ocasio has served two tours of duty in Iraq, one in 2004 and another in 2007. During his deployment he suffered a traumatic brain injury and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. To complicate matters further, Ocasio’s wife was diagnosed with cancer last year and had to undergo costly surgeries.
“I had complications coming back into civilian life,” stated Ocasio. “It has been a hard transition back.”
Using his savings to pay the hospital bills, Ocasio felt lost when he noticed his furnace was no longer functioning properly. With the cold winter months approaching Luis decided he needed to look for assistance.
“I was hesitant at first because I was too proud to ask for help,” said Ocasio. “But I realized it isn’t for me but for my family.”
With the assistance of the Hines VA Hospital, Ocasio contacted the Helping Our Heroes charitable foundation. Nancy Neimoth, director of Helping our Heroes, immediately contacted the Heat for Heroes program and within weeks a new furnace was on its way to the Ocasio family.
Heat for Heroes is an effort of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago (MCA) and the members of Pipefitters Local 597. Their mission is to donate time and materials to repair home heating and cooling systems for eligible military personnel.
MCA member, Air Comfort Corp., Bridgeview, Ill., was called upon to check the operation of Ocasio’s furnace.
Vice President of Operations Mike Schmidt said, “We were able to get the unit to work, but the furnace was so old we ultimately replaced it.”
In addition they provided a new evaporator coil and condensing unit for the air conditioner as well as the associated piping and everything was free of charge.
“Everyone went above and beyond to help me and my family,” said Ocasio. “They even took the time to show me how the new system worked and they answered all my questions.”
“We are pleased to see the Heat for Heroes program alleviate some of the anxiety for the Ocasio family,” said Stephen Lamb, executive vice president of Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago. “Helping families like theirs is what Heat for Heroes is all about.”
“There are angels that help us veterans when we are at our lowest points, that help bring us back up,” Ocasio said when discussing the Helping our Heroes and Heat for Heroes programs.
Ocasio recommends Heat for Heroes to other eligible military personnel and is relieved he and his family will not have to worry about staying warm this winter.
Click here for more information about Heat for Heroes.