Ripon U.S. Marine veteran Rick Van Unen has always given back to his country.
Now he is joining forces with his propane customers in a unique way to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund to benefit injured and ill service members and their families.
Military veterans, dignitaries and customers of the Van Unen Miersma Propane Company gathered Wednesday morning at Mistlin Park in Ripon to celebrate Van Unen’s effort to give up to $22,500 from annual fuel sales delivered by his three new propane trucks to the Semper Fi Fund. Many of the firm’s business associates also donated to the fund when they learned of the endeavor.
The new trucks were parked on River Road next to the Ripon Consolidated Fire Department’s 100-foot aerial truck with its large American Flag draped from the extended ladder.
Highlighted by a flyover of a Marine Corps prop aircraft, Van Unen explained that he was planning to donate one cent for each gallon of propane that he expected to sell over the life of the vehicles that would total some 750,000 gallons annually.
Van Unen explained the mission of the Semper Fi fund and had prepared a large check for $22,500 that he said the three trucks should generate in one year’s time.
The trucks’ patriotic wrap of U.S. Marine MARPAT camouflage features the Semper Fi Fund logo. The life of the trucks was estimated at five years. The fund was established 12 years ago by a group of Marine Corps spouses. Since its inception the fund has dispensed $136 million to some 17,000 heroes and their families. Van Unen said that 93 percent of every dollar donated goes to their program expenses and the services they deliver.
A small contingent of Marines stood at attention during the celebration. Several of them took part in the ceremonial cutting of the Marine Corps birthday cake that was shared with the audience that included San Joaquin County Supervisors Chuck Winn and Bob Elliott.
In the cake cutting the Marines followed their tradition and gave the first piece of cake to the oldest Marine present who then presented the second piece to the youngest Marine at the event.
Deputies from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and members of the Ripon Police Department were also on hand for the event.
U.S. Navy Captain Chuck Roots, ret., was present to offer the invocation.
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