INDIANAPOLIS — Chris Cunningham didn’t have the honor of serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, but he’s always had a deep respect for those who do. He gives veterans priority status when he hires, but he wanted to do more.

On Thursday, June 22, he and a crew from his company, Service Plus Heating, Cooling & Plumbing,  spent the day in Franklin, Indiana, installing a new furnace and air conditioner for a disabled Marine.

The project, valued at $8500, is Cunningham’s inaugural Salute to Service program, through which his company will annually donate and install a new air conditioner for a veteran in need.

“This absolutely is a life saver for him,” said Debra Gahimer, who nominated her husband for the program but didn’t tell him about the possibility for fear of him being disappointed if he wasn’t selected. After weeks of waiting for word, she’d given up but took some comfort in thinking that whoever won surely needed it more.

Cunningham said it would be difficult to find someone who needed the project more.

Mark Gahimer left the Marines after only a year due to knee injuries but went on to spend 33 years in Indiana law enforcement, serving with the Capitol Police, Hendricks and Johnson counties, and the town of Whiteland. Now 60, he suffered a stroke last year. He’s diabetic, has recurring issues with dehydration, and severe back and neck issues. He uses a walker to get around. Summer is especially difficult as heat worsens his dehydration issues.

For the past three years, the Gahimers have relied on window air conditioners because they haven’t been able to afford to fix their central air conditioner. “They don’t really do that much good,” Debra Gahimer said. 

Cunningham was moved by Mark Gahimer’s nomination, but when he visited the couple to assess their needs, he said he had to do more.

“Here’s a guy who’s spent his life protecting and serving others. First as a Marine and then as a police officer,” Cunningham said. “His a/c didn’t work at all, and his furnace was 30 years old. We’re going to rip out everything and give them a system that will help them all year round.”

Mark Gahimer was a bit skeptical of the program at first, thinking it was likely a bait-and-switch kind of offer. He said he kept waiting for Cunningham to tell him what the catch was.

“I’d kind of forgotten there are still some really great people in the world,” Mark Gahimer said.

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Publication date: 6/27/2017

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