I had the opportunity to sit down with some very special people who have served our country and who continue to make an impact on many lives. On Tuesday, March 21, Mychal Watts (Marine Veteran & Photographer) Gerry Cooney (Former Professional Boxer) and Monte Barrett (Champion Boxer & NY Hall of Fame) will be honored by Operations Warrior Shield (OWS) by Founder & Marine Vietnam Veteran, Ed Schloeman at Ben & Jack’s Steak House in Manhattan. Our dear friend and favorite publicist if I might add, MJ Pedone, President of Indra Public Relations, is co-hosting the event with Schloeman so we know that it will be a fantastic luncheon that you won’t want to miss,
I began my interview Schloeman who shared his background with me. “I served our country as a Marine Vietnam Veteran/ Retired NY Air National Guard, and I know first-hand the struggles of post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD). In 2016, I started Operation Warrior Shield a 501(c)(3) which provides comprehensive support programs for service members, veterans, and first responders and their families. These programs are focused on transition, health and wellness, employment, prevention of homelessness, peer engagement, and connections to community resources.” I always like to know how and why people start a nonprofit. “As a Marine Vietnam Veteran and a person who has served in the military for 28 years, I know firsthand what PTSD can do and I want to help our heroes overcome their demons. Throughout the years, I have made great friendships with Bob Roth of the David Lynch Foundation and the late WWII Veteran Jerry Yellin. Together, we brought transcendental meditation to those suffering from PTSD. Now with new friends like the Doris Day Animal Foundation, Dr. Bashara, and Pat Deshong of the Southampton Animal Society Foundation, we are bringing companion dogs to help our Veterans and first responders suffering with toxic stress issues.”
Who are you working with in New York. “We are working with NYC Department of Veterans services, NYPD Health & Wellness section, and those organizations I mentioned above to help our heroes overcome their stress issues that lead to PTSD which takes over their lives. We can help stop that and we need corporate sponsors to join us and help fight the black plague of the 21st century, toxic stress. March 21 will be a special day thanks to my dear friend MJ Pedone as we are bringing together close to 100 people to raise awareness to the epidemic of Veterans and first responder suicides. With many guest speakers such as boxing legends Gerry Cooney and Monte Barrett, we have NYPD and NYC veteran’s organizations joining us. Also, the mayor’s office is giving a proclamation to OWS. Very exciting to say the least.”
Next, I had the opportunity to speak with Monte Barrett who shared his background with me. “I’m an entrepreneur and business owner of a boxing gym and run a nonprofit as well as after school and summer programs for the kids in the Carolina’s. It is great that you’re also involved with the young boxers today. “Yes, I’m being intentional in helping them in the gym as well as with their professional career. How will you continue to expand the awareness of OWS. “I will continue being in direct contact and building healthy relationships within the organization to see how I can play my part. I would also like to see more awareness and more support from the government and support organizations to help. I look forward to seeing everybody at the luncheon and appreciate the support.”
Lastly, I spoke with Mychal Watts. Watts is a Marine Veteran who is now a world-renowned photographer. How do you go from serving our country to photographing some of the biggest names in Hollywood and sports? “When you deploy, everyone gets a camera. You’re in Japan, and you take pictures. Upon returning stateside, I proceeded to process all the film from my 13-month tour in Japan. To my disgust, I find out that none of the pictures came out…8 rolls of film. There started my quest to find out why! After my discharge, photography became my passion, I read books showing works of famous photographers for inspiration, then I’d study the technical books about the image process and the darkroom. I got a job working in a photo lab in NY which led me to meet John Bellisimo who was a celebrity photographer for the Hard Rock Cafe in NYC and was a client at the lab. One day, I wanted to do some headshots and needed a studio space, so John introduced me to Photographer Kevin Mazur. I used his studio a few times then Mazur asked me to become an assistant helping with the technical side of his photography. Due to my technical skills, I helped improve his photography tremendously and quickly became his second shooter covering events all alongside him! Mazur kicked off my career due to his influence in the industry and my talent, did the rest. The clients we worked on together were Billy Joel, Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Mariah Carey, Jewel, Michael Jackson, and Gwen Stephani, to name a few. We also covered The Oscars, Grammys Gift suites as well as the Tribeca Film Festivals. Today, I’m still photographing celebrities, but also work with professional athletes, models, corporate leaders, and specialize in headshots. My work runs the gamut and me and my team are experienced and equipped to shoot anything and travel where the client needs us.”
I have seen some of your work and you’re extremely talented and it is such an honor to meet you and have this time conversing. Tell us about your service dog Connie that OWS gifted you. “After a crazy situation with my agency, the death of my mom, bad investments, and nightmares throughout the years, I was awarded Connie who was named after Col. Justin Constantine, a Marine Veteran who passed away. Connie is an amazing partner who has helped me by just being a great dog and who knows how to calm me when she senses my anxiety! Connie quickly has become my best friend and the best therapist I’ve ever had, as long as I have peanut butter!
I’m truly grateful for this interview and hope that you can support what will be another fantastic event hosted by the Indra Public Relations team. If you would like to attend the luncheon, feel free to purchase tickets by visiting: www.owsknockout.eventbrite.com
If you would like to learn more about OWS, please visit, https://operationwarriorshield.com.