Saturday, May 26, 2012

And the real stars shone....

Joe Mantegna greets an American hero
by contributor Maria Fda Giron R.
Photo credit:  PenFed Foundation

"I think people have forgotten the soldiers of America and it's very sad that this country has a short memory!" said actor Joe Mantegna at the PenFed Foundation's 8th gala: "Eight Annual Night of Heroes Gala: Honoring the Heroes at Home" at the Ritz-Carlton.

The annual gala provides financial support to help meet the unmet needs of veterans and their families including wounded men and women of the armed forces.

Notable guests that attended this year’s gala included keynote speaker Dr. Ashton B. Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense; NBC's Chief Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski; actor, producer and writer Joe Mantegna and Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler.

Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler
What could be better than being at a gala with Joe Mantegna and Miss America? 

Well, being surrounded by the real stars of America who were in the halls talking with their families, friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  Those stars were the soldiers that bravely maintain the security of their country.

Guests dressed in all colors and styles; however, those shining were not only the ladies, but the heroes of America who proudly wore their uniforms.
J. Christopher Flynn, president of PenFed, shared his happiness with the guests; "I believe that everybody should seek a dream job. Well I have the best job in the world, I work with heroes and I am there for them, so there is nothing better than my work and I am proud to be part of it."

Naomi Jagoda, a member of PenFed and one of the organizers of the event, reminded the guests that the "Hero at Home Award" was their way of being able to reach out to the entire national community and get America's vote on someone who they wanted to represent them. 

“We did a national YouTube competition to seek out a caregiver who people felt really represented the hero at home. Dahlia Constantine was chosen to be our hero at home.  She is a third-grade teacher at the Arlington Public Schools, and she really helped her husband, Justin, recover from the wounds that he sustained in Iraq”.

Major Justin Constantine (center) and his wife Dahlia
She shared her opinion about the organization.  It was really the most beautiful thing to see  how she talked about her husband and how grateful she is for the benefits of PenFed.

"Here you can find women that proudly wear the title of being the Heroes’ mothers, girlfriends, wives, girlfriends, and sisters.  I am one of them. My husband is not the only hero and therefore I'm just a symbol commemorating the work of all those fantastic people who are supporting them unconditionally," she said.

"I think we can all contribute with this foundation. The money is not all, but being grateful is and they need us as we need them"

The evening concluded with a song by Miss America and loud applause dedicated to the real stars of America, which at that time they shone more than ever.