Published: October 27, 2023
We have so much to celebrate, and we certainly did during Celebration 2023!
Blue Star Celebration, an annual event that honors Americans who are doing their part to preserve our All-Volunteer Force’s strength and viability by supporting our military families, was held October 26, 2023, at the Great Hall of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Presenting to a gathering of over 200 honored guests, CNN News Central co-anchor, military spouse, and BSF Board Director Brianna Keilar served as emcee for the evening. “The important work of Blue Star Families is personal for us,” said Keilar. “We understand the highs and lows of this life of service, and Blue Star Families has been there for our family every step of the way. Our continued work together is critical. Military families need us.”
Celebrating Milestones and Growth
In preparing for our upcoming 15th anniversary, Celebration 2023 also marks the launch of our 15 for 15 campaign, a fundraising goal to raise $15 million. In a spectacular show of support, three partners announced contributions toward this goal: craig newmark philanthropies, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and TriWest Healthcare Alliance.
As part of the Do Your Part campaign, Craig Newmark pledged to support a Blue Star Outpost in the district of each Congressional Quality of Life Panel member.
Guests look forward to a friendly culinary competition each year, and 2023 was no different! Famed culinarians work in the same room as military chefs, representing each branch of service.
SSgt Darnell Morris, Marine Corps
SFC Lakisha M. Smith, Army
CSC Sonata Haley, Coast Guard
TSgt Sarah Izor, Air National Guard
SrA Amber Pitard, Air National Guard
CS1 Savanna Caballero, Navy
SMSgt Jacquelyn Gausemel, Space Force
Chef Jenn Crovato, 1310 Kitchen & Bar — Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes
Chef Amy Bandwein and Executive Pastry Chef Yesenia Jarquin, Centrolina and Piccolina — Bresaola Bundles, Whipped Goat and Mascarpone, Chive
Chef Todd Gray, Equinox — Mediterranean Couscous Salad with Oven-Dried Tomatoes, Cured Meyre Lemon, Toasted Almonds, Micro Cilantro
Chef David Guas, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery and Neutral Ground Bar + Kitchen — Spicy Tuna Poke with Seaweed, Sesame, Avocado, Edamame, Cucumber, Rice Cracker
Chef Robert Wiedmaier, Marcel’s, The Robert Wiedmaier Restaurant Group — Sesame Cone with Maryland Blue Crab Mousse, Topped with Smoked Trout Roe
Chef Katsuya Fukushima, Tonari, The Daikaya Group — Korean Potato Salad with Soy-Marinated Salmon Roe
Catherine and Micheline Mendolsohn, Santa Rosa Taqueria, The Sunnyside Restaurant Group — SPARS Crouton Canapé, Red Roe Mousse Topped with Celeriac Rave with Cayenne, Dijob, and Curry Cream
Guests were given stickers to adorn chef banners to vote for their favorite dish.
The winning team for 2023 was chef Jenn Crovato and SSgt Darnell Morris with their dish, Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes.
Guests also enjoyed specialty beverages from Todd Thrasher of Thrasher’s Rum and Tiki TNT and Frankie Joes of Buffalo & Bergen. Dog Tag Bakery treated the crowd to delicious cupcakes and cupcakes.
Recognizing Support and Achievements
As part of the evening’s festivities, we proudly presented TriWest Healthcare Alliance with the Constance J. Milstein Philanthropic Award for their commitment to military families through philanthropic endeavors. TriWest serves the health care needs of the nation’s military and Veterans by administering the TRICARE program, as well as providing community care support to the VA. TriWest gives back to the military community continuously by working with military and Veteran service organizations and by supporting charitable causes. President and CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance David J. McIntyre Jr. accepted the award.
“We at TriWest couldn’t be more proud to help support this great mission,” said McIntyre. “We are all part of one ecosystem designed to take care of our military families. And what better way to give back to those who serve our nation, than to offer support and care for those who also sacrifice as their loved one serves.”
We were also honored to present the Civil Leadership Award to the Defense Health Agency. Director of the Defense Health Agency Lieutenant General Telita Crosland, USA, accepted the award. The dedicated and inspired team at the Defense Health Agency drives military health’s next evolution and they make an impact on the military community each and every day. DHA is a joint, integrated Combat Support Agency of nearly 130,000 civilians and military personnel that work together to enable the military to provide a medically ready force, including delivering the TRICARE plan to more than 9.5 million beneficiaries.
The evening was a night worth celebrating — a celebration to culminate a year of dedication and support for military families, and as we head to the 15th anniversary of Blue Star Families, a celebration to kickoff the next 15 years and beyond for Blue Star Families!
Thank you to this year’s Blue Star Celebration sponsors: craig newmark philanthropies, CSX, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, AARP, BAE Systems, Booz Allen, CJM Foundation, Delta Dental, Leidos, MERIT, Ulta Beauty, Humana Military, Blue Shield of California, The David Hochberg Foundation, and Paul Hastings.