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Thursday, November 25, 2010

DAYLIGHT: Injured Vets Get Balloons-Eye View of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Step Up 4 Vets Provides Wounded Warriors with Unique Holiday Experience

Patricia Kennedy and Kathryn Miller

Today Whom You Know was honored to join several dozen Iraq & Afghanistan wounded warriors & their families in viewing one of New York’s legendary traditions from a prime perch overlooking Times Square at a special brunch hosted by Los Angeles philanthropist, arts patron and injured vets activist Patricia Kennedy, founder of Step Up 4 Vets.  For the last three years, Ms. Kennedy a long time patron of dance has successfully bought at auction at the Career Transitions For Dancers Annual Jubilee, the brunch to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from their offices overlooking Times Square.  We think this is a fabulous idea and were delighted to meet Ms. Kennedy today and all of those that defend our country and their families; we are truly grateful for all they do.  In regards to America’s most devastatingly wounded warriors, Ms. Kennedy says: “They never got a parade when they came home so Step Up 4 Vets and Macy’s is saying ‘’Thank you” for your service on Thanksgiving Day”.

Many of the vets are part of The Walter Reed Warrior Transition Unit and from IAVA, (Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America). Ms. Kennedy launched Step up 4 Vets in 2008 to partner in the transition of our injured veterans as they readjust, rebuild and redirect their lives.

Guests included:
JASON HANSMAN, formerly Army Reserves, Civil Affairs Sergeant:  Jason is IAVA’s Online Community Manager and is responsible for maintaining and growing Community of Veterans, the first and largest social network exclusively for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  Prior to joining IAVA, Jason completed an 8-year enlistment in the Army Reserves as a Civil Affairs Sergeant.  From 2004 to 2005, he was deployed to Mosul, Iraq as the Operations NCO of a Civil Affairs company and helped manage hundreds of reconstruction projects.  Jason graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Political Science, with a minor in Near Eastern Language and Civilization.
MARCO BONGIOANNI, formerly Army Reserves, Major: Marco is a Major in the Army Reserves and did 2 tour tours in Iraq, among other places around the world. He is in school at Fordham University, getting his Masters in mental health counseling, working part-time and looking for full-time work. Marco is a proud New Yorker who currently resides in his hometown.  This is a cute clip on Marco doing a little fashion for Military Makeover.  Joining Marco were: Audrey Bongioanni (Marco’s mother) & Elli Papadopolous (Marco girlfriend). 
USMA, West Point Soldiers, Veterans & Families
CAPT. SCOTTY SMILEY: The U.S. Army's first blind active-duty officer.   Capt. Scotty Smiley while on patrol in Mosul, Afghanistan was blinded by a VBIED (vehicle based improvised explosive device) on April 6, 2005.  Scotty has written an inspirational book 'Hope Unseen' which Whom You Know looks forward to reviewing.  He now commands the Warrior Transition Unit at West Point's Keller Army Medical Center.   Scotty was joined by his wife Tiffany Smiley, Graham Smiley (son),  Grady Smiley (son), & Alexis Ainsworth, the Smiley’s Nanny.

Stephen Smiley, Scotty's brother; he works for the government.
Major Neal Smiley, Scotty's brother.  West Point Grad.  Formerly Army Special Forces.  Neal was joined by Carrie Smiley (wife), Lauren Smiley (daughter),  & Luke Smiley (son).
Major Jake Miller, formerly Army Chinook helicopter pilot. MBA from Stanford.  Jake was joined by Amanda Miller (wife) who also served in the military and they met while stationed in Germany, one of the cutest kids there with the best personality: Kathryn Miller (daughter) see above, & Winston Miller (son).

Kurt C. Horstman, Sergeant First Class, Special Forces, US Army.  Years of Service, 17 (still active).  Special Forces Intelligence Sergeant, DET One, First Battalion, 20th Special Force Group.  Bronze Star, Special Force Tab, Combat Infantry Badge, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, amongst many others.  Kurt was joined by Dorothy May Horstman (mother), Krista Lynn Horstman (sister),  Katherine Jessica Horstman (sister), & Robert Xavier Hill-Williams (brother in-law).

Christopher R. Rodriguez, Master Sergeant, US Army.  Years of service, 19 ½ (still active).  Texas Army National Guard.  Us Army.  Operational deployments: Bosnia, Kuwait, Kosovo, Iraq (2004, 2008, 2010).  Christopher was joined by 
Christine Rodriguez (wife), Katherine M. Rodriguez (11), Austin C. Rodriguez (9) & Madison A. Rodriguez (7).

James Mark Seydler, Sergeant Major, US Army.  Years of service, 20+ (still active).  First Gulf War (Desert Shield and Desert Storm), Humanitarian Operations, Hurricane Andrew.  Three tours to Afghanistan.  James was joined by 
Amanda Ruth Seydler (wife), Collin James Seydler (13),  Dylan Ashley Durocher (step-daughter) (9) & Gracyn Hope Seydler (2).

We enjoyed meeting you all!  And we hope you in turn will enjoy our column Patriotic Peachy and all of Whom You Know.

More about this amazing organization:

Philanthropist, patron of the arts and injured veterans activist Patricia Kennedy founder of Step Up 4 Vets presented Tiffany Smiley, on behalf of her husband Captain Scotty Smiley, with the Peace One Earth Medallion for his efforts to support his fellow Veterans and his bravery in combat. Capt. Smiley was blinded and seriously injured by a VBIED in Mosul, Iraq. Valiant soldier, infantryman, Airborne Ranger, combat diver, mountain climber, skier, tri-athlete, devoted husband and father, Capt. Smiley is the first blind U.S. Army officer to lead a company. He was named “Soldier of the Year” in 2007.  The Medallion designed by Ms. Kennedy is inscribed with Capt. Smiley’s name, the date of his injury and the title of his inspirational book, “Hope Unseen”.  Ms. Kennedy launched Step up 4 Vets in 2008 to partner in the transition of our injured veterans as they readjust, rebuild and redirect their lives.

Ms. Kennedy established Peace One Earth as a way to express gratitude to the defenders of our freedoms while acknowledging the hope for a world at peace. Renowned for her exquisite jewelry collection Ms. Kennedy created the beautifully crafted Peace One Earth medallion to make a statement about what is really important and essential in a peaceful society and to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of our troops and veterans who have given so much in pursuit.  

The bezel of the medallion is rimmed with her five essential E’s.  At the center of the medallion a dove hovers over the twin hemispheres, a single drop of blood drips from his heart representing the last drop of blood shed for world peace if we could follow these five essential E’s - Education, Equality, Ecology, Economy, and Equity.

The presentation took place at the star-studded Career Transition for Dancers (CTFD) 25th Anniversary Silver Jubilee at the Hilton New York prior to the Anniversary Supper

Capt. Smiley and his wife Tiffany joined other guests of Ms. Kennedy at her table for the gala dinner. As has become her tradition, Ms. Kennedy fills her table with Veterans to thank them for their service to our country. Other military guests who also attended the Career Transition for Dancers  star studded retrospective at City Center hosted by Angela Lansbury earlier in the evening included Col. John Christian, Director U. S. Army Special Operations; Sgt. Todd Bowers, Deputy Director IAVA; Major Jacob “Jake” Miller USMA and his wife Amanda. 

For over twenty years Patricia Kennedy has had a deep impact on the future of dance, especially in the ballet world as a great supporter of the Joffrey Ballet serving on the board from 1984-1994 Transitioning from the board in 1993 she co-produced with Gerald Arpino the internationally famed Prince ballet “Billboards” which is the most commercially successful ballet in history. A longtime supporter of Career Transition for Dancers she was honored by CTFD with the Award for Outstanding Contribution to the World of Dance in 2004. From 2005 to 2007, she served as gala chair raising millions of dollars for CTFD and their support programs for injured dancers.

Transitioning once again and taking a page from CTFD’s playbook, she founded Step Up 4 Vets to help injured Vets transition to civilian life. She designed the Peace One Earth medallion in 2008 to honor their service and sacrifice. In recognition of her enormous charitable efforts and philanthropy she was invested Dame of Merit with Star in the Scared Military Constantinian Order of St George. At the core of Ms. Kennedy’s beliefs is the concept that the dance and theater experience and, yes, parades can have a transforming effect on the injured veterans and elevate the spirit to aid in the healing process.

For the last three years, at Career Transition for Dancers Annual Gala, Patricia has hosted at her table – not CEOs or dance world luminaries - but injured veterans and their spouses. Each year during the event's auction, she has purchased The Thanksgiving Day Parade Brunch overlooking Times Square to which she invites veterans and their families.

This year as in previous years, some 20 injured veterans and their families will be treated to an elegant champagne brunch while watching the parade from Career Transition for Dancers’ offices overlooking Times Square

While in New York, Ms. Kennedy continued her support for injured Veterans and attended the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America Fourth Annual Heroes Gala honoring Afghanistan Veteran, best selling author, IAVA Board Member and investment professional Wes Moore. The NFL Today and former Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers Bill Cowher presented Mr. Moore with the Veterans Leadership Award, given annually to an Iraq or Afghanistan Veteran who has demonstrated immense courage and leadership within the veterans’ community.

Also honored was David Gelbaum, CEO Entech Solar; Chairman, The Quercus Trust; Venture Philanthropist and Founder of the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund at the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles who received the Civilian Service Award. NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams served as the gala’s emcee.

Presenting the award to Mr. Gelbaum was former IAVA honoree All My Children star and motivational speaker J. R. Martinez, who suffered burns over 40% of his body and undeterred went through 32 surgeries. He became a motivational speaker and joined the cast of “All My Children” in 2008 as combat veteran, Brot Monroe. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also addressed the crowd and congratulated IAVA founder Paul Reickhoff and his team for all they do for veterans.

The following day, Veterans Day, found Ms. Kennedy proudly marching up Fifth Avenue representing Step Up 4 Vets along with over 20,000 of her fellow Americans who were all part of the largest parade in its 91 year history.

To learn more about the vital work that Step Up 4 Vets is doing to help our brave men and women injured in combat and how you can help, please visit

The Peace One Earth medallion, offered as both a pendant and a lapel pin, is available in 18 Karat Yellow Gold, Solid Sterling Silver, Gold-Plate and Silver-Plate. The pendant is suspended from a 22" red cord representing the bravery of our soldiers.  The back of the medallion is designed to be engraved with the name of a loved one who served in any conflict, past or present, or is currently serving the cause for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other places around the world. The medallion comes in its own Peace One Earth gold-stamped suede pouch. To honor our troops and veterans purchase a medallion for yourself or as a gift for a loved one.  You will be supporting the work of Step Up 4 Vets.  To purchase your Peace One Earth medallion please go to

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