Washington’s top names, media icons, politicos, and celebrities descended upon Katharine Graham’s Beall-Washington House, owned by brunch co-host Mark Ein and the location for scenes in Steven Spielberg’s The Post, for the 25th annual Washington Correspondents Garden Brunch to mingle, grab goodies from the donut wall, and most importantly, to honor the military service members who give their lives to protect our liberty.
Tammy Haddad, who started the Garden Brunch in her backyard 25 years ago, kicked off the proceedings by bringing out longtime Bloomberg correspondent and this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association President Margaret Talev who reminded folks that the reason they all gather is to protect the First Amendment and celebrate the hard work of journalists.
Hilary Rosen took the stage to thank a special Garden Brunch guest, Former US Navy Commander Everett Alvarez Jr., who earned a Purple Heart after being the first US pilot shot down over North Vietnam. Alvarez Jr. spent eight years as a prisoner of war, one of the longest periods in American military history.
Wells Fargo teamed up with SAP NS2 Serves and Garden Brunch hosts Tammy Haddad, Hilary Rosen and Megan Murphy, Mark and Sally Ein, Fred Humphries, Mark Testoni, Kevin Sheekey, Fritz Brogan, Franco Nuschese, and Greta Van Susteren and John Coale, to honor Ret. Army Staff Sergeant Dominic Perrotte to award the veteran, who completed 3 tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and was wounded in 2012 when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.
As part of Wells Fargo’s commitment to helping veterans, they have partnered with the Military Warriors Support Foundation’s Homes4WoundedHeroes to award Perrotte and other combat-wounded gold star families with a 100% mortgage-free home in Hampton, Virginia- yes, a home!
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax praised Perrotte’s service and opened the frame door where Jerry Quinn, Wells Fargo’s Military Affairs Program Manager, awarded Perrotte the deed to the house along with Andrea Dellinger with the Military Warriors Support Foundation, who presented Perrotte and his wife Kayla with a flag to fly in front of their new home.
ABC News Correspondent Bob Woodruff, who was wounded while covering the frontline in Iraq in 2006, introduced Perrotte and awarded him with an Ann Hand eagle pin, which is worn by Congressmen, Ambassadors, and military service members. Woodruff even invited Perrotte to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner as his guest!
Woodruff praised Wells Fargo’s initiative to honor veterans and their families saying, “To date, Wells Fargo has donated over 350 homes, valued at $55 million, to veterans and gold star families in all 50 states. It’s not just about giving away homes — it’s about providing quality, long-term assistance for our veterans for many years down the road.”
SAP NS2 Serves President Mark Testoni brought the 17 graduates from this year’s NS2 Serves program, which places vets in an intensive training program to place them in high tech jobs, to the stage where they each received the Garden Brunch Champions of Freedom Award.
Representative Don Beyer introduced the graduates and thanked the veterans in attendance. “My district is home to over 50,000 veterans and active duty men and women. I’m proud to represent a district with such a strong ethic of service, the same devotion shown by all these individuals before you today. My father is a Korean War vet, and I am deeply committed to caring for those who sacrifice to protect our freedoms.”
Testoni encouraged others to join him in his mission to train and hire vets, “We’re proud of the work we’ve done at NS2 Serves and we want to reach more people and touch more lives. That’s why I’m asking stakeholders, companies, anybody that wants to give back to the veteran’s community to join me in the next month at Dog Tag Bakery to explore how we can help integrate NS2 serves programs across platforms and partner with organizations to bring high tech jobs to vets.”
The bipartisan crowd included administration officials Kellyanne Conway and former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Representatives Darrell Issa, Debbie Dingle, Don Beyer, and notables Ali Velshi, Ambassador Roy Hand, Alison Starling, Ambassador Charles Rivkin, Anna Palmer, Audrey Gelman, Bill Knapp, Brian Stelter, Chrys Kefalas, Daniel Lippman, Don Lemon, Dr. Carla Hayden, Franco Nuschese, Frank Luntz, Fred Humphries, Fritz Brogan, General John Campbell, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Greta Van Susteren, Heather Podesta, Hilary Rosen, Jack Evans, James Hong, Jeremy Bashd, David Adler, Jill Zuckman, Joaquin Castro, John & April Delaney, John Coale, Jonathan Karl, Jordan Klepper, Juju Chang, Kevin Baron, Laura Gray, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, Madchen Amick, Margaret Talev, Mark & Sally Ein, Mark Testoni, Matt & Mercedes Schlapp, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Megan Murphy, Megan Smith, Michael Avenatti, Richard Schiff, Robert & Elena Albritton, Sally Quinn, Stephanie Ruhle, Steve Clemons and Andrew Oros, Amy Weaver, Erick Kuhn, Steve Howey, Sunny Hostin, Tara Setmeyer, Ted Johnson, Ted Olson, Tekedra Mawakana, Timothy Lowery, Tina Tchen, Tommy McFly, Valerie Jarrett and Laura Jarrett, and Zach Leonsis.