By J.D. LeipoldMay 24, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 24, 2013) -- At the Ninth Annual Night of Heroes Gala a garrison commander, a former Army chief of staff and an Army spouse received top honors from non-profit sponsor Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation for their support and dedication in helping to meet the needs of Soldiers, veterans, wounded warriors and families.
Among the honored at this year's dinner and gala held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel here, May 22, was Col. Gregory D. Gadson, commanding officer of Fort Belvoir, Va., who received the Military Hero Award from Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell and Patricia S. Kimmel, president and CEO of Belvoir Federal Credit Union.
In his remarks, Campbell praised Gadson for continuing to lead by example despite the loss of both legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007. He had been on his way back from a memorial service for two of his lost Soldiers.
"From that day forward he made a solemn promise to continue to serve in our great Army and he's continued to do so despite many, many odds that would have taken over many other great people ... that's what leadership is all about," Campbell said.
The general recalled how Gadson had been a four-year letterman and co-captain of the 1989 West Point football team and later served as co-captain and motivator for the New York Giants.
"He inspired the Giants as he inspires me, as he inspires our Soldiers every single day as he continues to serve in our great Army. It is a great honor and a privilege for me to have an opportunity to be part of this," Campbell said, welcoming the colonel.
Gadson rolled his wheelchair up the ramp and onto the stage to a standing ovation.
"On the eve of Memorial Day, the true heroes which we will honor in a couple of days, those are the real heroes who have paid in full measure. I am just extremely blessed to be here today, to enjoy this moment and be able to continue to serve," Gadson said. "I have so many teammates here, so many folks who have been instrumental in me being here and giving me the courage and the vision to continue on."
Secretary of Veterans Affairs and former Army chief of staff, Eric K. Shinseki was wounded twice in Vietnam. He was presented with the American Hero Award by former VA secretaries Togo West, James Nicholson and James Peak.
Shinseki was praised for his committal and "single mindedness in making sure that post-traumatic stress is recognized and effectively treated by the Veterans Administration, and indeed by the nation's medical community at large," said master of ceremonies Lee Woodruff, author and co-founder, the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
"It is the signature wound of these wars and a legitimate and significant disability to many of our warriors, especially those who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan," Woodruff said. "Eric Shinseki has helped to give a name, a story and a voice to the debilitating results of war that have affected so many veterans. His efforts to bring this illness out of the shadows and remove the stigma into the forefront as an invisible wound of war has helped millions of Americans get the attention and the help they need."
Hollister K. Petraeus, was a military spouse for over 37 years. Today, she serves as the assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and as the director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs. She was recipient of the Community Hero Award, which was presented by Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Bill Siegert, chairman, PenFed Foundation.
"She has been a strong, consistent voice for service members and their families for many years -- there's been no greater partner in our efforts to fight for and protect the financial well-being and health of members and families of those who serve and protect us," Siegert said.
"Her office's mission is to see that military families receive strong financial education, monitor their complaints of financial wrong and coordinate national efforts regarding consumer protection measures for military families," he said. "As the daughter of any Army general and a military spouse of 37 years, Holly Petraeus knows first-hand about predatory lending and illegal foreclosures that have hurt military families, and has led efforts to crack down on those causing them. She's a hero to so many of us here and around the country."
A nationally recognized nonprofit organization, the PenFed Foundation works to meet the unmet needs of military personnel and their families by supporting wounded Soldiers and by providing financial management assistance and home ownership aid.
Much of the proceeds from the black-tie gala will go toward the construction of the $17 million Lee and Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge, a free hotel where wounded, ill or injured veterans will be able to stay while under out-patient care at the Veterans Administration's medical facility in Palo Alto, Calif.