Celebrities, servicemen and entertainment industry insiders came together Jan. 11 for the inaugural Salute to Service luncheon, paying tribute to those in the media and entertainment community who have shown extraordinary support for the nation’s troops and veterans.
“It’s easy to forget that we are still a nation at war,” noted Bob Woodruff, the ABC news anchor who has been a longtime supporter of U.S. veterans. Variety‘s Salute to Service, presented by National Geographic and hosted by “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor, honored five people whose work ensures that the country doesn’t forget.
Woodruff was there to present the award to Caroline Hirsch, the Carolines on Broadway founder who created the ten-year-old Stand Up for Heroes event. Veteran and activist Wes Moore, journalist Martha Raddatz, veteran and actor Rob Riggle and Mikal Vega, a veteran and the technical consultant on NBC series “The Brave,” were also presented with trophies for their work.
John Oliver presented the award to Riggle, his former colleague on “The Daily Show,” whom Oliver described as “a very silly man who has done some very serious things with his life.” He mentioned it to make a more serious point about veterans: “It is far too easy for us to think of them in a very reductive way,” he said. “But they are not one thing.”
From the podium, Riggle remembered his time in the military — including his activation on the night of Sept. 11, 2001, and his time at Ground Zero, during which he met Max Bowers, the officer he portrays in his upcoming film “12 Strong.” He then explained his own ongoing commitment to the military.
“My reason is this country, my friends, my family,” he said. “America’s fate is my fate. It’s my wife’s fate. It’s my children’s fate. I care about what happens to this country, inside and out.”
“Wanting to be of service and actually being of service are not the same thing,” noted Vega, who was introduced by “The Brave” stars Anne Heche and Hadi Tabbal.
Moore, the author of the books “The Other Wes Moore” and “The Work” and the CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation and BridgeEdU, said that circumstances demanded he take up activism when he saw paratroopers returning home and waiting six to nine months to see a doctor. “We weren’t planning on coming back and becoming advocates,” he said. “We had to.”
Moore was introduced by NBC anchor Willie Geist, who sees big things in Moore’s future. “I just can’t wait to quit my job, perhaps very soon, and become the communications director for his presidential campaign,” he cracked.
Held at Cipriani 25 Broadway, the event was introduced by Gerry Byrne, the vice chairman of Variety’s parent company PMC and a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran who spearheaded the efforts to get the event off the ground. Tim Pastore, National Geographic’s president of original programming and production, also took the podium to talk about the network’s ongoing efforts to showcase the experiences of those who serve in the military, including with its newest documentary series, “Chain of Command,” premiering Jan. 15.