Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) celebrated its 10th Anniversary with the Heroes Gala on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York. The annual event, now in its eighth year, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support IAVA and its mission to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.
Each year, IAVA recognizes individuals who have shown an immense dedication to the veterans community. This year’s event honored CEO and Co-Founder of Uber Inc., Travis Kalanick, with the 2014 IAVA Civilian Leadership Award, and Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, with the 2014 IAVA Veteran Leadership Award. The evening was emceed by Willie Geist, co-anchor of NBC’s “Today” Show and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, and featured a musical performance from Nashville, Tenn., singer-songwriter Kandace Springs.
Around 700 veterans and guests mingled during the red carpet and cocktail hour before taking their seats for the ceremony. After an introduction from Willie Geist, who announced eight lucky guests had $100 Uber gift certificates under their seats, IAVA Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Paul Rieckhoff took the stage to welcome guests and thank veteran and civilian supporters. “IAVA has touched more veterans than anyone,” he said. “We are showing the world that vets are rising”. He made special mention to IAVA’s newest board member, actor, film director and producer, Peter Berg. Listen to the full speech here.
Attendees included: Abby Huntsman (MSNBC co-host, Admiral Mike Mullen (Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Honoree), Bob Woodruff (ABC News), Brigadier General Loree Sutton (Ret) (NYC Commissioner of Veterans Affairs), Budd Mishkin (NY1 host), Cale Conley (NASCAR driver), Chris Mortensen (ESPN journalist), Chris Wragge (CBS News anchor), David Brooks (New York Times journalist), Derek Coy (Former Marine Sergeant), Ed Shultz (MSNBC host), Greg D’Alba (IAVA Board Member), Henry Kissinger (Former Secretary of State), J.R. Martinez (Actor, Veteran’s Advocate), Jean Shafiroff (Philanthropist), Jim Hirschmann (IAVA Board Chairman), Kandace Springs (Performer), Les Gelb (IAVA Board Member), Mark and Claire Rockefeller, Michael Leven (IAVA Board member), Michele McDonald (Ms. New York America 2013), Michelle Monaghan (Actress), New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Paul Rieckhoff (IAVA Founder & CEO) and wife Lauren Hale, Rita Cosby (CBS News anchor), Ronan Farrow (MSNBC host), Rosanne Haggerty (IAVA Board Member), The Honorable Robert A. McDonald (Secretary, US Department of Veteran Affairs), Travis Kalanick (CEO of Uber, Inc.; Honoree) and partner Gabi Holzwarth, Willie Geist (NBC & MSNBC Co-Anchor; Emcee) and wife Christina Geist.
Willie Geist introduced the next speaker as U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert A. McDonald. “We are so honored to be joined by a man who brings a lifetime of skill, talent and devotion to help each and every one of the men and women who have served our nation,” Geist said. Secretary McDonald congratulated IAVA on a successful 10 years. “IAVA’s voice is being heard,” he said. “It is influencing all that we do.” With an estimated 22 veterans committing suicide each day in America, Secretary McDonald said it is a “top priority” to continue working closely with IAVA to combat this alarming epidemic. Listen to the full speech here.
Friends of IAVA and the veteran community, including former Heroes Gala host and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, Comedian Stephen Colbert, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, Comedian Darrell Hammond, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, and CNN anchor Jake Tapper recoded special video messages which were played to guests on the big screen throughout the evening. The ceremony was also livestreamed online and watched by veteran supporters worldwide.
After dinner, guests heard the emotional stories from eight of the almost 2.8 million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. The veterans thanked Paul Rieckhoff and his team for being “tenacious, determined and effective fighters” on their behalf. Veterans Todd Bowers and Bryan Adams, who featured in IAVA’s powerful and groundbreaking Public Service Advertising campaign, filmed in New York’s Flatiron District, also spoke of their readjustment after service and their personal experiences with IAVA.
Geist then introduced the evening’s first presenter – Army veteran, veterans’ advocate, best-selling author, actor, and motivational speaker, J.R. Martinez. Martinez applauded IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff, who created the organization out of his East Village studio apartment a decade ago, for his vision and unremitting passion. CEO and Co-Founder of Uber Inc., Travis Kalanick, accepted his 2014 IAVA Civilian Leadership Award for his work with the UberMILITARY program, which will on-board 50,000 members of the military community over the next 18 months, empowering them as entrepreneurs and small business owners. Kalanick thanked all veterans, saying “It is what you guys do that allows entrepreneurs like me to follow their dreams.” He said it was it was a “tremendous honor” to receive the award and to be able “empower economic freedom” amongst veterans through UberMILITARY. Listen to the full speech here.
Former Marine Sergeant, Derek Coy, who has been an ardent and impactful advocate for his fellow service members, took the stage to introduce the recipient of the 2014 IAVA Veteran Leadership Award, Admiral Mike Mullen, a staunch advocate of veterans and their families, who Paul Rieckhoff described as “one of the finest leaders of our time”. Admiral Mullen said he was accepting the award “on behalf of all veterans”. Listen to the full speech here.
A live auction led by auctioneer Brittney Ingarra attracted bidders with items such as a Victory Green Gunner Motorcycle, including a $5,000 Victory Accessories package, which was sold for $45,000.
Representatives from leading sponsors attending the event. Sponsors who supported the event at a $25,000 level or above include Victory Motorcycles and Joan Ganz Cooney (Hero Sponsors); TriWest Healthcare, Turner Broadcasting, and USAA (Dinner Sponsors); Robert Cohn, Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, HBO, JPMorgan Chase, Miller High Life, Uber, Western Asset Management, Wheels Up, and WME/IMG (Support Sponsors). Special thanks was made to Southwest Airlines, IAVA’s official airline partner.
For more information visit www.iava.org/
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