March 26, 2009
|USO of Metropolitan Washington Salutes “Our Nation’s Heroes” at the USO-Metro Annual Awards Dinner|
The USO of Metropolitan Washington (USO-Metro) hosted its 27th Annual Awards Dinner last night at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City. The evening was devoted to honoring outstanding individuals for dedication to our nation through service and volunteerism. More than 600 senior military, civil and industry leaders attended the event.
Special guests at the star-studded event included: Al Franken; Renee Zellweger; Miss America 2009 Katie Stam; actress and model Leeann Tweeden; WWE stars Mr. Kennedy and Linda McMahon; NFL's Frank Krauser, Riki Ellison, Mark Moseley and Anthony Munoz; TNA star Mick Foley; and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright.
Actively involved in celebrity handshake tours at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, NFL alumni accepted the Legacy of Hope Award on behalf of the NFL Alumni Association. The Legacy of Hope Award is presented every year to an organization whose leadership and members carry on the tradition of Bob Hope. Leeann Tweeden, who has spent countless hours visiting injured and deployed service members, introduced the award while WWE's Mr. Kennedy and Linda McMahon, along with Miss America Katie Stam - representing the first and second organizations to receive the award - presented the 2009 award.
The program also included a Special Salute to our Nation's Heroes, honoring active-duty service members representing each branch of service. SSgt Christopher Waiters, USA; SSgt Joseph Perez, USMC; SSgt Zachary Rhyner, USAF; LCDR Christopher Barrows, USCG; and PO2 Luis E. Fronseca, Jr., USN were all recognized for their bravery and determination in accomplishing our nation's mission. During the Special Salute, USO-Metro also recognized more than 30 Medal of Honor recipients in attendance, including a special presentation of the oldest living recipient from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam conflicts.
When recognizing the members of this Special Salute, Elaine Rogers, President of USO-Metro, remarked, "We are so honored to recognize these men, representing all of the amazing men and women who serve our country today, as some of the bravest. We thank you for your personal courage and determination in defending our nation."
This year, for the first time, USO-Metro presented the COL John Gioia Patriot Award in memory of John Gioia, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a devoted member of the USO-Metro Board of Directors for 20 years. The award was presented to SFC Carlo DePorto, USA, for his dedication to volunteerism and military service. DePorto is a veteran of three wars - WWII, Korea, and Vietnam - dedicating his entire life to the armed forces. DePorto has been a USO volunteer for over 50 years, receiving the USO-Metro Lifetime Volunteer Service Award in 2000 with his late wife, Bette DePorto.
One of the evening's memorable moments included the presentation of the 2009 Merit Award. Actress Renee Zellweger, who has spent countless hours visiting with injured service members at WRAMC, introduced wounded warriors participating in the program. Zellweger, who had previously visited with one of the service members she was introducing, thanked him for their visit, citing the impact it had on her. Wounded warriors SPC Brent Hendricks, USA; Sgt Kurtis Dellicker, USA; Sgt Jason Shepperly, USA; and TSgt Israel Del Toro, USAF then introduced the 2009 Merit Award recipient Al Franken. Franken received the award for his ongoing dedication to injured and deployed service members. Franken has participated in numerous celebrity handshake tours at local military hospitals, as well as several USO overseas tours including trips to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
This annual event raised over $600,000 for USO-Metro. The funds will be used in support of local service members and their families. The funds raised from this event will be used to support and enhance USO-Metro's many programs and services, including family events and support services, poker tournaments, emergency housing, food assistance, and celebrity visits with wounded warriors at local military hospitals.