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Black Tie International
Third Heroes Awards Gala




IAVA Honors Innovators in Television at
Third Heroes Awards Gala

Emotional Tribute to Those Who Serve
 Sends Message to Vets

“We’ve Got Your Back” 


Paul Rieckhoff with Honorees; Van Toffler and J.R. Martinz. 
Photo by:  Edward Callaghan





IAVA (Iraq - Afghanistan Veterans of America) hosted their Third Annual Heroes Award Gala to honor innovators in television on November 10 in the seven-story gilded Ballroom of the majestic, turn of the century Gotham Hall in Midtown.  


It was an appropriately grand setting for this gathering of over 400 guests - many of them veterans of America’s wars – to honor America’s bravest and the folks who work to insure their fair treatment and to celebrate with IAVA founder and President
Paul Rieckhoff
who has worked tirelessly in the fight for such basic G.I. rights as education, housing and healthcare. The message for the evening was a very strong statement to returning military “We’ve Got Your Back”   the theme resonated throughout the evening


This year’s gala hosted by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams honored honor Iraq Veteran, spokesperson and actor star of “All My Children”  J.R. Martinez and Van Toffler President of MTV Networks Music and Logo Group, for their outstanding contributions on behalf of and to the new veteran’s community. Coinciding with Veterans Day and IAVA's nationwide Veterans Week activities, this unique and inspiring event brought together veterans of all generations – from World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, the Gulf War and the current wars on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As well, there were many distinguished members of the veterans’ community and high profile supporters.


During cocktails, numerous vets were sharing their experiences. Meghan Meade said,” I was in Iraq for eight months and it sure is great to be stateside again”. Meghan is now serving with the reserves and is based at Zabriskie Airport in Westhampton. 27 year old Cpl. Aaron P. Mankin horribly disfigured from an IED explosion shared “I was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in May 2005 when a roadside IED exploded”. Yet despite the many operations he has undergone, he remains resolutely cheerful and proudly said,” I was the first patient to participate in Operation Mend” where he had much of his initial surgery to rebuild his face. "Operation Mend," is a unique partnership between Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and the V.A.-Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System has been established to help treat several U.S. military personnel wounded during service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Katz Family Foundation funds all uncovered costs associated with the project, including lodging patients and family members at UCLA's Tiverton House, a hotel on the hospital campus designed to meet the needs of patients receiving treatment at UCLA.


Throughout the cocktail hour, a massive four story high screen carried the message, “We’ve Got Your Back” while hundreds of twitter messages from friend and supporters around the world were instantaneously popped up on the screen -a clear testament that the vets’ backs are indeed covered.



Brian Williams introduced honoree Van Toffler as “the man who gave us such towering programming as “Beavis & Butthead’ and ‘Jackass’ and later added that he was getting back at Van for having mocked him “for being an admitted Nascar dad”. All said in jest, as under Toffler’s stewardship MTV has broken new ground for the network. MTV has produced several ground-breaking shows featuring Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, including profiling young veterans struggling with readjustment on MTV's Emmy Award winning "True Life" series, as well as celebrating the service of our newest generation of veterans in the television special, "A Night for Vets: An MTV Concert for the BRAVE." MTV also worked with several veterans organizations to mobilize youth in support of veterans across the United States and created a mobile petition entitled BRAVE, The Bill or Rights for America's Veterans.


Another MTV initiative CMT One Country promotes volunteerism, including supporting veterans and military families as part of their outreach and in partnership with the U.S.O. CMT has also featured the U.S.O. in such series as "Gone Country" and continues to highlight the organization throughout the year. Additionally, the CMT series "American Soldier" followed the real life story of a small town National Guard battalion based out of Dublin, Georgia as they deployed to Iraq. 


The Heroes Award Gala also offered guests and media in attendance a sneak peak of the powerful, new television Public Service Announcement (PSA) for IAVA's National Veterans Support Campaign. Produced in conjunction with the Ad Council, the PSA was released on Veterans Day. The campaign's first ad, featuring a new veteran coming home to an empty New York City, gained national prominence last year. This new ad, part of an inspired, innovative strategy, shows veterans that IAVA "has their back" as they transition home.


Leading the applause when the PSA ended were Carol and John Bowers whose son Staff Sgt Todd Bowers stars in the video but could not be there for its debut as he is on another tour of Afghanistan.


When the evening’s host Paul Rieckhoff came to the stage the applause was thunderous and with good reason as he has fostered more significant legislation for both serving soldiers and vets. In 2004, it was Rieckhoff who upon returning from Iraq blew the whistle to the international media of the lack of body armor for troops serving in Iraq and other equipment issues for “his” soldiers chronicled in his best selling 2007 book: “Chasing Ghosts”. He uncovered the shocking unsanitary conditions at Walter Reed Hospital, the nation’s flagship military hospital that shook the Pentagon and brought about change in the care and treatment of our vets.


For Rieckhoff it is very simple. “We always take care of our own – that is what inspires me everyday”, he stated. He spoke eloquently about the new G.I. bill the most comprehensive upgrading of the manner in which veterans are treated and the robust legislation that IAVA has on its agenda in the coming months and years.


The gala evening concluded with a performance by the amazingly gifted young students of the P.S.22 of Staten Island led by teacher and music director
Greg Breinberg for a roof raising finale in song!




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