Each year, Variety celebrates heroes in the military space, from the troops on active duty to veterans who have thrown their lives on the line in service of our country. This year, due to coronavirus, the annual in-person Salute to Service luncheon will not be taking place, but veterans and service members will still be feted in the way of the Variety “Salute to Service presented by History” television special, co-produced with the History channel and airing at 10 p.m. Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Per Paul Buccieri, president, A+E Networks Group, the one-hour special marks the first time Variety has produced a project in partnership with the History channel. The special will feature a host of celebrity presenters including Jake Gyllenhaal, Trace Adkins, Kevin Bacon, Tamron Hall and Morgan Feeman and will highlight philanthropic organizations including the USO and the Gary Sinise Foundation. Also being honored is Team Rubicon, a disaster-relief organization founded in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake by Marines Jake Wood and William McNulty.

“Many of these veterans’ organizations are at the forefront” of nonprofits delivering COVID-19 relief, Buccieri says.

“Given the realities of the pandemic, we thought it was the perfect time to turn this annual in-person event into an on-air tribute and to join with prominent people in the entertainment industry to use our platforms to honor those who have served,” he continues. “All of those included in ‘Salute to Service’ have been advocates of giving back to our service men and women, and we are so pleased to have been able to bring this group together for such an important cause.”

Gerry Byrne, vice chairman and board member of Variety parent company PMC, says: “Variety has long had a commitment to support the veterans community as well as to salute and thank those who have served. Service is, indeed, such an important part of the fabric of our nation. To now have this very special History Channel partnership with their on-air Variety ‘Salute to Service’ special, allows us the perfect path to further ignite an awareness of the important issues impacting veterans.”

The special, Buccieri says, will also feature “an incredible” roster of veterans and military personnel.
Among those heroes is retired Marine Cpl. Kionte Storey from San Diego. While serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Kionte was hit by an IED and lost his right leg. Adkins will present Storey with his award.

“Corporal Storey lost his leg during a combat deployment to Afghanistan, but overcame all odds to train with the Paralympic track team and climb the highest mountain in Antarctica,” says Buccieri. “Now, he raises funds to provide prosthetics for underprivileged amputees.”

The special is also a way to promote the charitable work of corporations that have been “leaders in the veterans’ space by hiring and supporting veterans,” Buccieri says.

“This year, we are excited to incorporate Verizon into ‘Salute to Service,’” he continues. “Verizon has an outstanding company-wide initiative focused on supporting and hiring veterans. We have a segment about an amazing Verizon employee named Lauren Schulz, a U.S. Marine Corps reservist who served in Iraq.”

Gary Sinise, Oscar-nominated for his role as Lt. Dan Taylor in “Forrest Gump,” has spent the past decade advocating on behalf of veterans, first responders and their families through his foundation, established in 2011.

“It’s always important to support veterans, there’s always a need regardless of what’s going on in the world,” says Sinise, who will appear on the “Salute to Service” special to honor Army vet Jarrid “Jay” Collins. Collins is a former Green Beret, combat-wounded amputee and Invictus and Warrior Games athlete, as well as a motivational speaker.

While the calendar year may notate one day reserved for honoring veterans, Buccieri says at
History channel, the work supporting veterans never ceases.

“Honoring veterans and highlighting the many ways they contribute to our communities is an effort we pursue all year,” adds Buccieri. “For example, our Mission to Honor campaign is one of our key outreach initiatives because veterans play such important leadership roles in our society, even after they are no longer in uniform.”