On Thursday at New York’s Cipriani 25 Broadway, Variety and National Geographic teamed up for their inaugural Salute to Service event, which celebrated the contributions the United States military has made to the entertainment industry and society as a whole.
One of the honorees, retired United States Marine Corps Reserve officer and actor Rob Riggle, told Variety, “I’m honored that they thought of me.” His contributions include his charity golf tournament and work with veterans organizations such as Team Rubicon, We Are the Mighty, and Got Your 6, among others. “It’s who I am, and a passion that I have. It’s something I’m going to continue doing, regardless of who’s watching.”
Riggle studied acting and comedy in college and in New York while on active duty. He’s known for his work in comedic films like “The Hangover” and “Step Brothers,” though he will soon be taking a dramatic turn in the upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer-produced military drama “12 Strong.” When asked if his military training prepared him for a career as an actor, he pointed to the “intangibles” he picked up in his training, such as “a thick skin, a can-do attitude, and getting knocked down and getting back up again,” he said. “You learn those in the Marine Corps.”
The event’s honorees included Caroline Hirsch (co-founder of Stand Up for Heroes and a board member of the Bob Woodruff Foundation), Martha Raddatz (ABC News chief global affairs correspondent, co-anchor of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” and author of “The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family”), Mikal Vega (retired Naval Special Warfare Operator and technical director on NBC’s “The Brave”), and Wes Moore (Army Combat Veteran, chief executive officer of the anti-poverty organization Robin Hood and author of “The Other Wes Moore” and “The Work”). Moore told Variety that “I’m thankful that Variety and National Geographic have taken the lead, not just to remind people of the service of our men and women,” he said, “but also the fact that there is still so much to contribute. The service doesn’t end just because we take the uniform off.”
Actor Michael Kelly, whose father was a Marine, worked with several veteran advisers on the television adaptation of “The Long Road Home” that aired on the National Geographic channel and said their cause has become close to his heart. “One of the biggest problems in this country is what we do with veterans when they come home,” he said. “You can’t help but meet these guys and hear how they are treated when they come home, and hear the unacceptable suicide rate of veterans.
“When they come home, how do they readjust to society? How do you go from 1000 miles an hour to 0 miles an hour?” he continued. “Not just finding a job, but how do you adjust that mentality? How do we help these people readjust to society? It makes doing these things a lot easier.”