Honored Guests and Presenters of the 3rd Annual Veterans Awards

Shohreh Aghdashloo | Montel Williams | Anne Heche | Mike Vogel | Sofia Pernas | Nate Boyer | Matt Barr



Shohreh Aghdashloo 


Shohreh Aghdashloo was born Shohreh Vaziri-Tabar on May 11, 1952 in Tehran, Iran. In the 1970s at age 20, she achieved nationwide stardom in her homeland of Iran, starring in some prominent pictures such as The Report (1977) directed by the renowned Abbas Kiarostami, which won critics awards at the Moscow Film Festival. In 1978, she won wider acclaim and established herself as one of Iran's leading ladies with Desiderium (1978) directed by the late Ali Hatami. During the 1978 Islamic revolution, Aghdashloo left Iran for England, to complete her education. Her interest in politics and her concern for social injustice in the world would lead her to receive a Bachelor's degree in International Relations.

She continued to pursue her acting career, which eventually brought her to Los Angeles, California in 1987. She went on to marry actor/playwright Houshang Touzie, performing in a number of his plays, successfully taking them to national and international stages. However, this was not easy getting work in Hollywood as a Middle Eastern actress with an accent; she had roles in some decent, though not great, films, including Twenty Bucks(1993), Surviving Paradise (2000) and Maryam (2002). She received good reviews for her 12 episodes on the fourth season of the Fox television series 24 (2001) as Dina Araz, a terrorist undercover as a well-to-do housewife and mother in Los Angeles. She had to wait quite some time to receive her break in Hollywood.

And finally, years after having read the acclaimed novel "House of Sand and Fog", DreamWorks were in the process of bringing the story to the silver screen. After having cast Ben Kingsley (as Massoud Amir Behrani) and Jennifer Connelly in the lead roles, they were looking for a relatively unknown Iranian actress to play Kingsley's wife, Nadi. Shohreh Aghdashloo was duly cast. She stole the limelight and earned herself an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actress amongst many other prestigious awards, including the Independent Spirit Sward as best supporting actress in a feature film, the New York and Los Angeles film critics award and others.

Montel Williams 

EMMY-WINNING ACTor | MOntel Williams MS Foundation | U.S. Marine Corps

Montel Williams earned his media celebrity status as an inspirational Emmy Award winning television personality whom Americans invited into their homes for more than 17 years. He is a decorated former naval officer, inspirational speaker, author, entrepreneur and advocate for patients worldwide.

Shortly after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1999, Williams established the Montel Williams MS Foundation to further the scientific study of MS, provide financial assistance to select organizations and institutions conducting research, raise national awareness, and educate the public. The MWMSF has granted over $1.5 million dollars to research and has supported a study done at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which discovered an MS gene.

Over the years, Montel has been involved with many initiatives that are focused on improving the lives of people living with various brain impairments and injuries. He has personally participated in studies and trials surrounding non-invasive brain stimulation therapy with phenomenal results. He continues to work with researchers and the U.S. Army to further develop their findings with the hopes of helping soldiers who have experienced blast-related traumatic brain injuries.

Williams began his career in the public eye speaking at thousands of high schools across the Country and has always been a champion of public schools, public education and of the value in inspiring today’s students to be the leaders of tomorrow. He’s currently the face of the National School Board Association’s #StandUpForPublicSchools campaign which aims to raise awareness of the critical role of public education in American society as well as the incredible accomplishments of the Public School System despite underfunding, political interference and an increasing threat from those who advocate privatization.

Williams began his professional career in the US Marine Corps and was the first black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School to then go on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy.
Williams earned a degree in general engineering and minoring in international security affairs. While servinginthemilitaryWilliams’wastherecipientoftwoMeritoriousServiceMedals,two Navy Commendation Medals, and two Navy Achievement Medals and various other military related awards and citations.

Because of his military service and regard for those who serve, Montel has a special place in his heart for our servicemen and women. Montel serves on the board for Fisher House, an organization that provides free or low cost lodging to veterans and military families receiving treatment at military.

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Anne Heche

PatriCIa Campbell in NBC's The BRAVE

Anne Heche stars as Patricia Campbell, the Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, on the new NBC drama series "The Brave."

Heche is one of Hollywood's most sought after and versatile actresses in the areas of film, television and stage. She has earned Tony and Emmy Award nominations for "Twentieth Century" and "Gracie's Choice," respectively.

With extensive film, television and theatrical credits, Heche can be seen in a number of critically acclaimed movies and series. Her televisions credits include hit shows such as "Nip/Tuck," "Everwood," "Men in Trees" and "Hung," and she can be seen in feature films such as "Catfight," alongside Sandra Oh, "The Last Word," "Cedar Rapids," "Wag the Dog" and many more.

On the stage, Heche made her Broadway debut in the Tony-winning play "Proof," followed by a critically acclaimed performance opposite Alec Baldwin in "Twentieth Century."

While Heche is well known for her credits in front of the camera, she is also a writer and director. Heche wrote and directed a short feature titled "Reaching Normal" for Showtime's "First Director Series," as well as the second installment of "If These Walls Could Talk II."

Mike Vogel

Adam Dalton in NBC's The Brave

Mike Vogel stars as Captain Adam Dalton, the leader of an elite group of military professionals carrying out dangerous missions to keep the world safe, on NBC's new drama series "The Brave."

Vogel is best known for his starring role on creator Stephen King's hit series "Under the Dome," as well as arcs on esteemed series that include "Bates Motel" and "Childhood's End."

In addition to his television work, Vogel also has extensive film credits, including "The Case for Christ," "Cloverfield," "The Help" and "Blue Valentine," co-starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Vogel will next be seen in the film "Battle of the Sexes," opposite Emma Stone and Steve Carell.


Sofia Pernas

Hannah Rivera in NBC's The Brave

Sofia Pernas currently stars as Hannah Archer, a member of the esteemed Defense Intelligence Agency, on NBC's new drama series "The Brave."

Half Moroccan and half Spanish, Pernas has extensive film and television credits, including an arc on the popular daytime series "The Young and the Restless," as well as a recently recurring role on the hit series "Jane the Virgin." Pernas can also be seen in the feature film "Indigenous" and in the family film "Age of the Dragons," alongside Danny Glover and Vinnie Jones.

Nate Boyer


Nate Boyer (born January 9, 1981) is a former American football long snapper and United States Army Green Beret. After serving six years and multiple tours for the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Boyer played college football as a walk-on at the University of Texas despite never having played a down of organized football in his life. He was signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2015.

After joining the US Army in 2005, Boyer earned the coveted Green Beret in December, 2006.  He was stationed in Okinawa throughout most of 2007 with 1st Special Forces Group.  In April of 2008, Nate was deployed with ODA 0324 10th Special Forces Group to Iraq and served his tour of duty until January of 2009.  He then served tours in Afghanistan from April-August, 2013 (Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan) and from April-August, 2014 (ODA 3116 3rd Special Forces Group).  In addition to his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Boyer completed a number of JCET (Joint Command Exchange Training) Missions to Israel (2009), Bulgaria (2011), and Greece (2012).

A five-year player for the Texas Longhorns, Boyer served as the No. 1 long snapper on PAT/FG’s his last three seasons and also handled punt-snapping duties during 2013-14.  He played in 39 career games.  In 2012 Boyer received the Disney Spirit Award at the ESPN College Football Awards, which is given to the most inspirational figure in college football. In 2013 the National Football Foundation awarded him with the coveted Legacy Award. He was named to the 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes players whose charitable involvement and community service contributions stand out among all other student-athletes; was a three-time first-team Academic All-Big 12 choice (2012-14); and was first-team Capitol One Academic All-American in 2013.   Boyer was named 2012-13 Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year and in 2012 became the first-ever recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).  In January of 2015, he played in the Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, SC.

Matt Barr


Matthew Jerome Barr is an American actor. He is known for his roles as Johnse Hatfield in Hatfields & McCoys with Kevin Costner, Mike Fleming in Commander in Chief, Ian Banks in One Tree HillChristopher Sullivan in the mystery-horror limited series Harper's Island, and Dan Patch in The CW's series Hellcats.

Some of Barr's roles include playing Ian Banks, Peyton Sawyer's (played by Hilarie Burton) stalker on One Tree Hill. Barr has also portrayed guest and recurring roles on popular television series ERBonesThe O.C. and Commander in Chief. He starred as David Stanley in the direct to DVD film Protecting the King as Elvis Presley's youngest step-brother.

Barr appeared in the 2008 film The House Bunny as Tyler, one of the university's students.

He portrayed David "Puck" Rainey, one of the alumni of The Real World: San Francisco, in Pedro, Nick Oceano's 2008 biographical film on the life of AIDS educator Pedro Zamora. In 2009, Barr co-starred in the mystery/horror miniseries Harper's Island as Christopher "Sully" Sullivan. Between 2009 and 2010 he guest starred in many TV series, such as CastleTraumaFriday Night Lights and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Barr was cast as a series regular in the CW series Hellcats playing Dan Patch, in 2010. The series premiered on September 8, 2010. However, after one season the series was cancelled. He had a role as Billy "The Kid" Rhodes on the USA Network series Necessary Roughness in 2011. In 2012, Barr assumed a leading role, starring in the Kevin Costner miniseries Hatfields & McCoys for the History Channel. He portrayed Johnse Hatfield, who fell in love with Roseanna McCoy. Barr was drawn to this part due to the romance and tragedy surrounding the famous feud.

Veteran Presenters

Eli Crane | Mark Rockefeller | Colton Smith | Matt James | Travis McVey

Eli Crane

U.S. Navy SEAL | Small Business Entrepreneur | Made in America Advocate

Eli Crane is a patriot, family man, philanthropist and Christian, but is most notably known for being a Navy SEAL turned entrepreneur.  Eli and his wife Jen founded the small business success story Bottle Breacher, which started in their garage turning 50-caliber shells into beer openers and is now a multi-million company offering a  wide range of products – made in America by American veterans.                                                                                                                                           

After leaving college his senior year and enlisting in the Navy days after the attacks on 9/11, Eli spent 13 years in the service.  His last 9 years were spent serving our nation at the highest level in the SEAL teams.   Eli spent his first two deployments in the Navy as a gunners mate aboard the USS Gettysburg. In 2006, Eli deployed to Habbyniah Iraq at SEAL team 3, Bravo platoon.  His next deployment as a SEAL was at SEAL team 3, Delta platoon under Chris Kyle, widely known as the American Sniper.  Delta platoon conducted operations in Al Qaim (located on the Syrian border), Rawah, Mosul and Sadre City. Eli spent his last deployment as a sniper, point man and lead navigator for Delta platoon from 2008-2010 including a deployment to Fallujah, Iraq.  During his 3 deployments, Eli was involved in hundreds of special operations including Direct Action, Sniper Overwatch, Presence Patrols, Reconnaissance Operations, Intelligence Gathering, and Foreign Internal Defense.

After serving 4 years at SEAL team 3, Eli moved on to the NSW Recruiting Directorate from 2010-2012 to raise awareness around the country and attract the next generation of SEAL’s.  At the same time, Eli taught mental toughness, teamwork and leadership – traits forged into our nation’s special operations units – to professional, collegiate and Olympic sports teams including USA Women’s Water Polo, USA Rowing, USA Sailing, USA Field Hockey, Michigan Wolverines football, Northwestern football, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Miami Dolphins.

Eli and his wife Jen put Bottle Breacher on the map in November 2014 after appearing on ABC’s hit television show Shark Tank. They were able to secure a deal with Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary which exponentially help grow their business. 

However, very few small businesses will have that opportunity.  Eli is an outspoken advocate for the small businesses of America and what we can do to support the most important economic growth factor in our country – the success of small businesses.  Eli is extremely passionate in raising awareness about Veteran unemployment and hires veterans whenever he can.  He is a strong conservative, willing to speak out about preserving national security, promoting capitalism, and limited government along with his faith.

Though most people see Eli as a success, he loves speaking to and motivating audiences about his early mountains of failure and how learning to be resilient and relentless is probably the most important mindset to develop.  He also loves raising awareness about Veteran issues and raising money for Veteran and military non-profits and issues. Eli and his wife Jen reside in Tucson Arizona where together they run Bottle Breacher and raise their two daughters.

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Mark L. Rockefeller

CEO of Streetshares | Entrepreneur | Veterans

Mark L. Rockefeller is the Co-Founder & CEO of StreetShares, America’s leading Fintech company focused on the military and veterans’ community. Mark is also a contributor at Forbes, writing on veterans’ entrepreneurship and military leadership in business. 

Mark started his career in the U.S. Air Force. Following 9 years of military service, and an academic stint at Columbia University, he joined the Wall Street law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy where he worked on the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy among other financial services matters. He left Milbank in 2013 to co-found StreetShares with former Capital One executive Mickey Konson. 

Mark holds a bachelor's degree in finance, MBA and law degrees, was a Stone Scholar at Columbia Law School, and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Mark has been quoted or featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., Bloomberg Businessweek, Fox News, Huffington Post, American Banker, and others. 

Colton Smith

Mixed Martial Arts | Enlisted Nine Fight Company | U.S. Army

Colton Smith is an American mixed martial artist and Combatives and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Matt Larsen and Alliance Jiu-Jitsu who formerly competed in the Lightweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Smith is best known for competing on, and winning The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson. His dominant wrestling style allowed him to defeat all five fighters he faced in the tournament by decision. On August 20, 2015, it was announced that Smith signed with the World Series of Fighting. He made his eventual debut on October 17, 2015 at WSOF 24 against Washington Da Silva. He won the fight via unanimous decision. He is currently an active member of the U.S. Army. 


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Matt James

U.S. Army Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal Recipient

Matt James is a combat wounded veteran that served as a paratrooper out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Having been severely injured in the Al Anbar province of Iraq after his convoy was ambushed during 2005, Matt spent a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center receiving treatment for numerous injuries. In addition to a damaged eye, shattered heel, and numerous shrapnel wounds, Matt suffered a severe traumatic brain injury that would necessitate spending nearly a month in a medically-induced coma and several years of rehabilitation. For his actions and deeds in Iraq, Matt was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal. Matt now resides in the Washington, D.C. area with his wife, Marilena, where he continues to support veterans and advocate for services that support our Nation’s combat wounded.

Travis McVey

Founder of Heroes Vodka | U.S. Marine Corps

Travis McVey is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran who proudly served as a Presidential Honor Guard from 1989-1992. An innovative and determined entrepreneur, Travis endured the life-changing tragedy of a good friend dying in combat in the War Against Terror in Afghanistan. The experience paved the way for Travis to realize the American dream of owning a business, a business that would enable him to continue to serve his country.

Travis's vision was to develop a brand to partner with well-known Veteran organizations. His mission was to help Veterans get the care they deserve. With Heroes Vodka, Travis's dream has become a reality. Heroes Vodka was first bottled on Veteran's Day, 11.11.11, a date that occurs only once in a century and epitomizes the rarity of this event. As the "Official Spirit of a Grateful Nation," the mission of Heroes Vodka is to deliver exceptional taste and superior value to consumers, while honoring Veterans and other American service organizations through charitable contributions.