Friday, September 12, 2008

VET Foundation Event for Nick Popaditch, "Once a Marine"

New York, NY -- 9/11/08 -- I had the honor of attending a benefit for Veteran Employment Transition Foundation - VET Foundation - on the 66th Floor of the Trump Towers in Manhattan on the historic seventh anniversary of 9/11. It was an incredibly moving and inspiring event and what better way to spend 9/11 than with the heroes who make our freedom and American way of life possible.

These people are doing wonderful things to help injured vets to transition back to normal lives with good jobs. My Dad would have been so proud - and those wonderful Marines! So dedicated to each other and to their wives and children. Even Donald Trump was briefly in attendance. I couldn't help but think of one of my all time favorite movies, "The Best Years of Our Lives" and how far we've come with this fantastic organization! Read about Harold Russell.

Nick Popaditch and his wife, April, were guests of honor. They'd been to Ground Zero in the morning, Nick was on WOR radio's morning show guest-hosted by Rita Cosby, and was lined up for events and radio interviews all throughout the day. When I arrived, April greeted me with her warmth and gorgeous smile and introduced me to her husband, "Gunny" - a strikingly handsome man with such humility and humbleness and the most beautiful eyes - one of which is prosthetic with the Marine Corps emblem emblazoned in it - eagle, globe and anchor.

During Nick's presentation for the VET Foundation, he told the story of how he'd enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1986, was badly wounded commanding a tank in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 and suffered grievous head wounds that left him legally blind and partially deaf. The USMC awarded him the Silver Star for his valor and combat innovation. And now he's written a wonderful book documenting his experience having gone to hell and back - Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery. It was the first time he saw his book in print! And co-author Mike Steere told us some of the adventures they had writing the book. [more...]

I had the honor of meeting Marine Sergeant Edward Chin of the 3rd battalion 4th Marines regiment, an ethnic Chinese who moved to New York when he was one, and who was the soldier that scaled the fallen Saddam statue to put the chain around the neck of the giant Saddam. He also attached the American flag, and then climbed back up to replace it with an Iraqi one.

David Eigenberg, of Sex & the City fame, rounded off the evening with his own presentation for the VET Foundation, joking about his job as "skivvies stacker" in the Marines - "I wasn't a war hero, but I played my part," he said, obviously very moved and inspired by his fellow Marines.

As I drove off, I was thrilled to be able to get a glimpse of the 9/11 memorial lights shining in the night from Ground Zero and felt so proud to be an American. Semper Fi to all those wonderful troops who keep us safe in America! [Go here to watch the slideshow of the event...]

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