november 11, 2011

GI Go Fund Honors Distinguished Guests at Annual Veterans Day Gala

Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker, War Hero Who Captured Saddam Hussein, and PSEG CEO Ralph Izzo Honored

PSEG CEO Ralph Izzo (left) was presented with the "Post 9/11 Veteran Employer" Award by Marine Sgt. Joe Pace (center), who was hired by the company in 2009 after attending a GI Go Fund Job Fair. Pace was also presented with the "Veteran Leadership" Award by GI Go Fund Executive Director Jack Fanous (right).

NEWARK, NJ - U.S. Army Specialist Jeans Cruz, the war hero who found Iraq’s Dictator Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole in 2003, was among five distinguished veterans and veterans’ activists who were honored by the GI Go Fund at its Third Annual Gala.

“When I heard Jeans story I thought to myself: how is this guy’s name not world renown? Sixty years ago, if someone had caught Hitler, we would all know who that person was, that person’s name would go down in history,” said GI Go Fund Executive Director Jack Fanous. “I want this room to start today: we will know who Jeans Cruz is and we will honor him for what he did.”

The GI Go Fund’s Veteran’s Day Gala, held at the Newark Club, also honored PSEG CEO Ralph Izzo, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, journalist Geraldo Rivera, and veteran Marine Sgt. Joe Pace, who found a job at PSE&G at a GI Go Fund job fair.

Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker, who partnered with The GI Go Fund three years ago to create the Newark Office of Veteran Affairs in Newark City Hall, was honored at the 2011 Veterans Day Gala with the "Innovation in Veteran Services" Award

Fanous said the GI Go Fund chose to recognize the honorees because each has made a significant contribution to the men and women who have served our country overseas and deserve recognition as well as gratitude.

A non-profit charitable organization, the GI Go Fund was founded in 2006 to assist all military veterans, with a focus on veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, as they search to find employment, attend college through the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and connect to critical benefits. Since its creation the Fund has held numerous Job Fairs and other programs to benefit veterans in the state of New Jersey.

The Fund was started by Fanous and his brother, James, along with Alex Manis, Nick Manis, and Pete Manis. The men founded the organization after their high school friend, Lt. Seth Dvorin of South Brunswick, was killed by an IED during his 2004 tour in Iraq.

Cruz, who received the “Veteran of the Year” Award for his outstanding service, worked in the World Trade Center when they were attacked on September 11th, 2001. He never imagined that during his first and only tour in Iraq, he would be the one to find and capture the fallen Iraqi dictator hiding in a ditch outside of his home city of Tikrit, after the fall of Baghdad.

Cruz, a Calvary Scout in the 10th Cavalry Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, was discharged from the Army in 2005. He lives in the Bronx with his wife, Jackeline, and four children: Jeans Cruz Jr., 8; Luis, 4; Jaydan, 4; and Aaliyah, who is almost 2.

Army Spec. Jeans Cruz (left), the Iraq War Veteran who found Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole, presented with the "Veteran of the Year" Award by Jack Fanous, Deputy Director Alexander Manis, and Director of Communications James Fanous

Izzo, who is also the President and Chairman of PSEG, received the “Post 9/11 Veteran Employer” Award for the leadership that both he and his company have shown in hiring and employing veterans. The company has been represented at every GI Go Fund Job Fair and operates a program called PSEG Vets, a support group for veterans within the company.

Fanous said Izzo’s continuous efforts to hire veterans has quickly made PSE&G one of the top veteran-employers in the state of New Jersey, and has made Mr. Izzo a leader in employing our former military personnel.

“I find it amazing we are being thanked for hiring our veterans,” Izzo said after accepting his award. “These are people who have skills, discipline and a great work ethic, who give their all every day of the week.”

Pace, who spent three tours with the Marine Corps before finding a job with PSEG at one of the GI Go Fund's Job Fairs, received the “Veteran Leadership” Award. “I would like to thank the GI Go Fund, without whom, I would never have met PSEG,” said Pace. “I would also like to personally thank you for having me be part of the PSEG family.”

Rivera, host of Fox News Channel’s “Geraldo at Large,” has been a journalist for more than 40 years and has earned more than 170 awards in his career. He can now add the GI Go Fund’s “Civilian of the Year” Award to his list.

Rivera joined Fox News in 2001 covering many significant events of the past decade, including the death of Osama bin Laden in May.

Geraldo Rivera of Fox News being awarded for his support for our Post 9/11 Veterans.

Fanous said Rivera has brought attention to issues regarding veterans and their families and has been instrumental in educating the public on obstacles that returning veterans face every day.

“Shedding light on these issues has been an extremely powerful tool in getting the public involved in helping to correct the problems facing our veterans,” Fanous said.

Rivera said he was proud to be involved and to be honored. “It's very fulfilling to me, having spent so much time with our men and women in uniform,” Rivera said. “The hard part now is to help these men and women get re-assimilated when they come back home.”

Booker received the “Innovation in Veteran Services” Award for his dedication to helping veterans. In 2008, Booker brought the GI Go Fund to Newark and established an office in Newark’s City Hall.

The Fund has been running the city’s veteran program ever since in a groundbreaking partnership between a non-profit and a municipal government, the first of its kind.

“I want to give my gratitude to three people who I believe are angels,” said Booker, referring to the three founders of the GI Go Fund. “They have dedicated their lives, spirit, wisdom and love to helping the members of the armed forces.”

The Gala was sponsored by PSEG, Ferreira Construction, Vanguard Energy Partners, Stop & Shop, Prudential, Greater Media Newspapers, New Jersey State Broadcasters Association, Southwest Airlines, Domino’s Pizza, the accounting firm WithumSmith + Brown, the law firm Cole Schotz, the New York Jets and the New York Giants.