Elizabeth Perez-Halperin is being honored as a Veteran Advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security Champion of Change.
I am grateful to be a recipient of the Veterans Advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security Champions of Change honor – it is more than a personal recognition; it is an acknowledgement I share with my fellow veterans who are also committed to keeping America safe and strong.
Like so many of my peers, I was motivated not only to serve in uniform but also to serve our families, our communities, and our country in the rest of my life. For me, continuing my service meant finding ways to reduce the root causes of conflict – so that fewer wars will be necessary and our country can redirect its efforts to more peaceful pursuits.
This path led me to learn about energy security, sustainability, water conservation, and the challenges posed by climate change. Since my service ended I have examined the close relationship between energy independence and national security, and I have learned that the U.S.’s dependence on foreign energy sources poses a serious military threat, both economically and geopolitically. In addition, climate change presents a severe risk to the security and prosperity of the United States and the world.
Like many veterans, I was influenced by a legacy of my family’s military service – and their military hardships. I often think about this in the context of 1991 and the start of the First Gulf War. While at age twelve I had no awareness of the concept of climate change, I did understand the concept of limited resources and the reasons my father was going to war. My father enlisted in the Army for 17 years and served during the First Gulf War with the 101st Airborne Division. I lost my father shortly after his medical discharge from the Army – and then I joined the Navy in his honor.
I quickly realized enlistment meant saying goodbye to being a kid. Like many of my fellow Navy enlistees, I had to grow up overnight and no day underscored that point better than the day the U.S.S. Cole was attacked. I lost a friend, my “shipmate”, Seaman Palmer from San Diego, CA. Seaman Palmer and I were alike in many ways. We were both the same young age, with seemingly bright futures. But her life was taken away too soon and her memory stays with me to this day.
Not long after I found myself overseas directly supporting the 5th and 6th Fleets in the Second Gulf War. With many sleepless nights on watch, I thought a lot about the conflict we were once again engaged in, and I imagined the world I wanted my children to live in and how I could advance that more prosperous future in the years after I returned home.
Since transitioning from active duty, I have been on a journey of finding solutions to create a safer, stronger country. These goals connected me to my Native American traditions of protecting the earth and my experiences as a veteran protecting the U.S. in war. That is why I founded the renewable energy firm, GC Green, which works to broaden the outreach and impact of the green economy.
Even more valuably, GC Green has given me a platform to provide education, training, and outreach in renewable energy and water conservation. GC Green has allowed me to place more veterans in good jobs within the growing green economy. Since its founding in 2010, GC Green has served more than 1,300 individuals by providing training in the renewable energy industry, teaching entrepreneurship skills, and providing clean tech industry job placement assistance.
I look forward to using this award’s recognition to inspire even more veterans to use their skills and experience to confront the world’s challenges.
Elizabeth Perez-Halperin is a Navy veteran and the CEO and Founder of GC Green in San Diego, CA. GC Green is a renewable energy general contracting and consulting firm that provides veteran outreach, education, training, and job placement in the clean tech industry throughout California.