Children of Military Families to be Celebrated at PenFed Foundation’s 15th Annual Night of Heroes Gala Honoring Veterans and Community Supporters

Posted April 19 2019
by Media Relations
PenFed Credit Union News Release

ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 19, 2019 — On May 16, 2019, the PenFed Foundation will host the 15th Annual Night of Heroes Gala, Washington D.C.'s premier fundraising event for our nation’s defenders at the Mandarin Hotel. The gala will honor Gen. George W. Casey Jr., U.S. Army (Ret.), Patrick S. Williams, CEO of Innospec, Inc. and three children from military families.

This year, the gala will focus on the resilience and determination of military children – a unique group of young Americans who daily grapple with the challenges of having a parent deployed and in harm’s way. Semira Fields, a young Texan currently studying and playing volleyball at Grambling State University, will be honored with a Military Heroes Award, as will Jared Russell and Jaysha Young, both of whom were nominated by The Armed Services YMCA.

“The PenFed Foundation honorees are remarkable examples of the American spirit: brave, patriotic and selfless,” said James Schenck, president and CEO of PenFed Credit Union and CEO of the PenFed Foundation. “Whether fighting battles overseas or working hard on the home front, they show us the strength and resilience of the military community. We’re humbled to honor these heroes at our gala.”

In 2018, the Night of Heroes Gala raised more than $2.5 million. Since its founding in 2001, the PenFed Foundation has provided more than $30 million in financial support and contributes to more than 2,500 veterans, active duty military members and their families each year.

The PenFed Foundation announces the 2019 honorees:

Military Hero Awards – Children of Military Families. This year, PenFed has selected three children from military families as recipients of its “Military Heroes Award.” The first award will go to Semira Fields, an athlete whose strength resulted in a full scholarship to Grambling State University. She is the daughter of a U.S. Army soldier who deployed to Iraq for a total of three years between 2003 and 2009 and currently suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). 

The second award will go to Jared Russell, nominated by The Armed Services YMCA. Jared is an excellent student – third in his class – and an accomplished saxophone player who will attend SUNY Fredonia this fall. He is the child of two military parents. His mother, CPT Heidi

Fleming, was an Ordnance Officer in the U.S. Army. His stepmother, SGT Laurianne Fleming, is an Engineer in the U.S. Army Reserves.

The third award will go to Jaysha Young, also nominated by The Armed Services YMCA. Jaysha is from Fayetteville/Fort Bragg, North Carolina and has endured multiple deployments, prolonged Permanent Change of Station (PCS) absences from her father, and two hurricanes. Despite all of this, she has proceeded to excel in school as a member of the National Honor Society and in serving her community.

American Hero Award. U.S. Army General (Ret.) George W. Casey Jr. ranks among the most distinguished veterans in the nation, having served for 41 years in the United States Army. During his time in the service, General Casey commanded the multi-national forces in Iraq from 2004 to 2007 and afterward rose to the role of U.S. Army Chief of Staff under President George W. Bush. In the latter role, he dedicated considerable energy to ending the stigma against combat stress, fighting suicide, and supporting military families and wounded veterans.

Since his retirement, he has remained active in leadership roles across multiple sectors. He serves on the board of Georgetown University, his undergraduate alma mater; on boards of a variety of non-profits that support members of the military, veterans and their families; and on boards of a variety of major companies across several key industries. He is a distinguished visiting lecturer of leadership at Cornell University’s Johnson College School of Business and Rice Family Professor of Practice at the University of Denver’s Korbel School.

Corporate Hero Award. CEO of Innospec, Inc., Patrick S. Williams comes to his current role from a long history of leadership and entrepreneurship. Prior to becoming CEO in 2009, he served in a variety of roles at Innospec, including Executive Vice President, President of Fuel Specialties, CEO of Fuel Specialties in the Americas and leading the company’s performance chemicals business.

Under Williams’s leadership, Innospec Inc. has become one of the major corporate supporters of the PenFed Foundation’s Military Heroes Fund, donating more than $750,000 since 2007. Last year, the company’s annual golf fundraiser generated a $100,000 donation to the Fund, which in turn grants emergency financial support to members of the armed forces who are wounded or ill.

Other special attendees at the Night of Heroes Gala include seven Medal of Honor recipients including U.S. Army Major William D. Swenson, U.S. Marine Corps Colonel (Ret.) Harvey “Barney” Barnum Jr., U.S. Army Sergeant Major (Ret.) Kenneth Stumpf, U.S. Army First Lieutenant (Ret.) Brian Thacker, U.S. Navy SEAL Command Master Chief (Ret.) Britt Slabinski, U.S. Army Captain (Ret.) Florent Groberg, and U.S. Army Major (Ret.) General Patrick Brady.

There will be a media opportunity with the honorees and special guests prior to the event upon request. The general reception and silent auction will open at 6:00 p.m. ET, with dinner and the program at 7:00 p.m. ET. Award-winning journalist Leon Harris will emcee. The gala is a black-tie event.

The Commander Sponsor of this year’s gala is PSCU, which donated $100,000. Allied Solutions, LLC and CUNA Mutual Group are Military Hero sponsors each donating $75,000. Additional sponsorships and individual tickets can be purchased on the PenFed Foundation website.   

About PenFed Foundation

Founded in 2001, the PenFed Foundation is a national nonprofit organization committed to helping members of our military community secure their financial future. It provides service members, Veterans, their families and support networks with the skills and resources they need to improve their lives through programs on financial education, home ownership, short-term assistance, and veteran entrepreneurial assistance. Affiliated with PenFed Credit Union, the Foundation has the resources to effectively reach military communities across the nation, build strong partnerships, and engage a dedicated corps of volunteers in its mission. The credit union funds the Foundation’s personnel and most operational costs, demonstrating its strong commitment to the programs the Foundation provides. To learn more, visit


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