Wounded Veterans, Caregivers, Honored at Annual ‘Stand Up for Heroes’ Event

By ABC News

Nov 11, 2011 9:01am
gty stand up for heroes jp 111111 wblog Wounded Veterans, Caregivers, Honored at Annual Stand Up for Heroes Event

                                                                                                          Donna Ward/Getty Images

ABC News’ Felicia Patinkin and Suzan Clarke report:

Stand Up for Heroes, the annual fundraiser that honors wounded veterans and their caregivers, rolled out the red carpet in New York this week for several special people.

Among them were Carla Martin and Bernadette Blackwell. Blackwell, a Navy lieutenant, was injured in 2007.

“Normal chores are a hassle. It becomes very difficult to function on a daily basis,” Blackwell said.

That’s where Martin comes in, caring for her sister, who sometimes just struggles to remember the way home.

“If she needs me to remember for her, then that’s what I am here for,” she said.

Today is Veterans Day. Find out how you can help veterans and military families.

The Nov. 9 event at the Beacon Theater recognized 140 veterans and their families, giving them the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the best in the entertainment business, including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart and Ricky Gervais.

But the veterans and their caregivers were the stars of the event.

They got more than $25,000 in clothes and accessories, donated by Sears, and makeup artists from Dior and L’Oreal donated their time, at an estimated $40,000.

The event is presented by the New York Comedy Festival and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

More than 1,680 military members have died in Afghanistan since the U.S. began bombing there in October 2001, while more than 4,470 military members have died in Iraq since the war began there in March 2003, according to the Associated Press.  Another 46,000 have been wounded in both campaigns.

Hundreds of thousands of others suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. They have to rely on a broad network of caregivers: spouses, parents and siblings. Statistics show that those caregivers often suffer increased stress and financial hardship.

Nick Santoro joined the U.S. Marine Corps after high school, and was wounded in Iraq in 2006 when the Humvee in which he was riding ran over an improvised explosive device. It was Santoro’s third tour of duty there.

His parents, Joe and Penny Santoro, are caring for their son. Nursing him back to health has required major medical leaps and bounds and that care has been something as small as reminder notes around the house.

“He had a head injury so there’s a lot of issues dealing with loss of memory, lots and lots of reminders that we have to put all over the place for him … it’s more than worth it, just to have him back,” he said.

Nick Santoro said he’s “not an easy person to live with.”

“With all my pains and injuries and things they got to put up with but they deal with it and they help me,” he said.

Shane Rumley served one year in Iraq. According to the National Organization on Disability, the U.S. Army sergeant was involved in more than 900 combat missions, including firefights and casualty evacuations and explosive attacks upon his vehicle.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. For Rumley and his wife, Deanna, recovery hasn’t been easy.

“Yeah. We’ve had to go to therapy and our families have been through a lot,” Deanna Rumley told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff.

But the Rumleys’ time in New York gave them a chance to connect with others who share their experiences. And they got the chance to do a little bit more.

“It was very nice to be pampered but I consider my son the hero and not myself,” Penny Santoro said.

For Blackwell and Martin, the trip will leave lasting memories.

“I’m honored to be here with my sister, because to me she is a hero and so are all the other men and women,” Martin said.

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