Veterans Get Training, Help Families With Energy Bills

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DENVER (CBS4)– Some Colorado veterans are marking Veterans Day by coming together for Colorado to help low-income families.

The veterans are part of GRID Alternatives Troops to Solar initiative. The company trains veterans to install solar panels for low-income homeowners.

“Most of us went into the service to give back, so to be able come out and help families, it feels like continue service,” says Chuck Watkins, Executive Director of Grid Alternatives Colorado and a veteran himself.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat representing Colorado, joined the veterans Friday as they installed solar panels on the home of Roberto and Amanda Ortiz in Aurora.

“For them to volunteer on Veterans Day to come out here to help homeowners reduce their energy bills by 75 percent… It’s just typical of our veterans that they would do that,” said Bennet.

Bennet introduced a bill that would train veterans for renewable energy jobs while they’re still in the military so they enter civilian life already credentialed. He says the renewable sector is growing and installation jobs pay well and can’t be exported.

“Veterans learn a lot skills when they’re in the service, but they often don’t get the credentialing and we don’t really keep track of what they’re learning,” said Bennet. “That’s terribly inefficient and it’s not fair to the veterans.”

Jeff Bintz, construction manager for GRID Alternatives, says the bill is needed.

“You get out of military and a lot of folks don’t know what do next.and they’ve all been trained well,” said Bintz. “I’m happy to do it whether on Veterans Day or not.”

Roberto Ortiz says he’s thankful for the veterans’ help, “You work for us on Veterans Day, I’m very impressed and happy.”

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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