Joan Jett Fetes U.S. Troops and Prudential CEO John Strangfeld

  • USO of Metropolitan New York gala presents patriotic show
  • Strangfeld honored for starting veteran job-training programs

J.D. Crouch, chief executive of the United Service Organizations, rode a helicopter with Scarlett Johansson last week while visiting troops in the Middle East, which is hard to top as far as work perks go.

The USO Show Troupe

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

But then consider John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, who, for his support of veteran job-training programs at the insurer, experienced a patriotic, celebrity-filled USO show stateside.

Strangfeld was honored Tuesday night at the Marriott Marquis, during a benefit marking the USO of Metropolitan New York’s 75th anniversary.

Joan Jett performs “Crimson and Clover."

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Joan Jett led a sing-along of “Crimson and Clover." The USO Show Troupe danced through salutes to the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard as their respective active members, peppered throughout the ballroom, stood with pride.

Honorees alongside Strangfeld were David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, and service members including Air Force Staff Sergeant August O’Niell.

Honored service members gather on stage.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

On July 15, 2011, O’Niell was extracting wounded Marines in Afghanistan when he was struck by a bullet and seriously injured. After more than 20 surgeries over three-and-a-half years, he had his left leg amputated above the knee. Then he trained and became the first Pararescueman to return to duty as an amputee.

It was all very humbling.

Strangfeld focused on the need for civilians to support troops during and after their service.

Former Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, Prudential Financial CEO John Strangfeld and Chuck Hill of Pfizer

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

After starting a scholarship for veterans at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, his alma mater, Strangfeld asked his Prudential colleagues “to develop solutions that help veterans transition their success in the military to success in corporate America," he said on stage.

The result: a series of training programs that prepare veterans for jobs in information technology and operations at the insurer.

Prudential also gave $1 million toward building a new USO center at the Newark airport, to provide a haven for service personnel and their families while traveling. Other programs include USO shows and care packages.

“Our mission is to keep service members connected to family, home and country," Crouch said in an interview during cocktail hour. “The central challenge to military life is separation. You’re separated physically from your family, you put on different clothes, you’re governed by different laws, and you’re asked to do things that don’t have an analog in civilian life. Keeping them connected is important for them and for democracy."

For them, as well as for us. Repeating his favorite USO tagline, Crouch said he wants Americans to “be the force behind the forces."

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