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Stephen Colbert and Willie Geist to Headline Ninth Annual IAVA Heroes Gala

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 10.32.18 AMVeterans honor Army Veteran and NFL talent Daniel Rodriguez with Veteran Leadership Award, Polaris CEO Scott Wine with Civilian Leadership Award 

NEW YORK (October 2, 2015) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) announced today the honorees for the 9th Annual IAVA Heroes Gala, held on the day after Veteran’s Day, November 12, 2015 at New York City’s Cipriani 42nd Street. MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-anchor and “Today Show” host, Willie Geist, will return to host the gala honoring Scott Wine, Daniel Rodriguez, and our country’s newest generation of veterans and their supporters. Special guest Stephen Colbert, “The Late Show” host and IAVA Heroes Gala 2011 honoree will provide remarks and be in attendance along with American hero J.R. Martinez, “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald and other honored guests.

Army veteran Daniel Rodriguez will receive this year’s Veteran Leadership Award, granted each year to a veteran who has demonstrated immense courage and leadership within the veteran’s community. The former Army Sergeant served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010. Rodriguez most notably earned a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart for his courageous fighting in the Battle of Kamdesh on October 3, 2009. One of the worst battles in the war in Afghanistan, Rodriguez fought for more than 12 hours to protect his fellow soldiers, despite being severely injured by shrapnel. Following his military service, Rodriguez kept his promise to a fallen comrade that he would live his dream of playing college football. Rodriguez left the Army in 2010 and enrolled in a community college to prepare academically and physically for a large university. After his homemade recruiting videos went viral, Rodriguez was offered a walk-on spot with Clemson University. During his time at Clemson, Rodriguez published his autobiography, RISE, featured on the New York Times best-selling sports books list. Following his graduation from Clemson in 2014, Rodriguez would get a call from the St. Louis Rams with an offer to try out for team and played during the 2015 NFL preseason.

Chairman and CEO of Polaris Industries Inc., Scott Wine, is this year’s Civilian Leadership Award Honoree. As head of the power-sports vehicle manufacturer, Wine has expanded the company to include deployable advanced ground off-road vehicles to protect soldiers in the field. Victory Motorcycles, a Polaris affiliate, is also an invaluable strategic partner to IAVA, helping to make significant contributions to the veteran’s community.

“IAVA is extremely excited to honor Scott Wine and Daniel Rodriguez for their incredible contributions to the veterans community,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “Each fall we look forward to the Heroes Gala, where we celebrate our new greatest generation of veterans and those who have shown the utmost support for them. Scott Wine is a dynamic business leader who has also dedicated himself to working to propel the work of IAVA and supporting and empowering our nation’s veterans. Daniel Rodriguez possesses a deep commitment to the veteran’s community, sharpened by his outstanding patriotism, and we are honored to recognize him for his service.”

Each year, IAVA recognizes individuals who have shown an immense dedication to the veterans community. Past honorees include: Admiral Mike Mullen; Jon Stewart, former host of ‘The Daily Show;’ Peter G. Peterson, co-founder of the Blackstone Group and founder of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation; Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder and visionary of Sesame Workshop; David Gelbaum, CEO of Entech Solar and founder of the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund (IADIF); Van Toffler, President of MTV Networks; Arnold Fisher, Senior Partner of Fisher Brothers; Staff Sgt. Sal Guinta, Medal of Honor recipient; Michael Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor; Wes Moore, best-selling author and Army veteran; J.R. Martinez, ‘Dancing with the Stars’ winner and veteran; Raymond Kelly, NYPD Commissioner; Leslie Gelb, President of the Council on Foreign Relations; Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist; Bill Cowher, coach and Super Bowl champion; Nora Jones, singer; Marc Roberge, lead vocalist of OAR; and Bob Woodruff, Honorary Chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and ABC News anchor.

IAVA provides valuable resources and empowers veterans to connect with one another, fostering a strong and lasting community. Through education, advocacy and community building, IAVA strives to create a country that honors and supports veterans of all generations. Greg D’Alba, President of Global Sales and Marketing at WME and IMG, and Joe Abruzzese, President of Advertising Sales at Discovery Communications, are the 2015 IAVA Heroes Gala Co-Chairs.

The IAVA 9th Annual Heroes Gala is made possible by Hero Sponsor, Craig Newmark and Craigconnects, and sponsors Victory Motorcycles, Discovery Networks, American Heroes Channel, Legg Mason Global Asset Management, Turner, WME, NBA Cares, USAA, DAV, HBO, Morgan Stanley and TriWest Healthcare Alliance.

Tickets are still available to the 9th Annual IAVA Heroes Gala online or contact IAVA at heroesgala@iava.org or 212-982-9699. To become a sponsor of the Heroes Gala please complete our online sponsorship form.

Join the conversation on social media via @IAVA and #IAVA #HeroesGala, or watch live on IAVA.org.

Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.