Interviews Assal Ravandi, the founder and CEO of The Academy of United States Veterans.

Published on January 18th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz

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Assal Ravandi On This Year’s Vetty Awards & Other Inspiring Projects

Regardless of how you feel about the wars currently being fought by the United States military, or the leadership encouraging such, one cannot forget the brave men and women risking their lives on a daily basis. American veterans come from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds, of course, as do the people that who fight for veteran-related causes.

Headed by Assal Ravandi, the 3rd Annual Veterans Awards — also known as The Vettys — honors those who have demonstrated relentless dedication and selfless service to the veteran community and their families. Taking place in Washington D.C. on January 20th, The Vettys will hosted by renowned journalist and broadcaster Jake Tapper of the CNN news show The Lead With Jake Tapper.

Five honorees have been named to receive Vettys this year. Dustin Perkins is Director of Marketing for Student Veterans of America. The Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs organization provides individually trained medical service dogs to veterans. Bunker Labs empowers military veterans as leaders and innovators on a national basis. The National Veterans Legal Services Program works to ensure the government provides appropriate benefits to veterans and active duty personnel with disabilities. Last but not least, Sarah Verardo is the Executive Director for The Independence Fund.

To learn more about The Vettys, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Ravandi — a former soldier in the U.S. Army stationed in Afghanistan, who is also the founder and CEO of The Academy Of United States Veterans — for The Hype Magazine. More info on the AUSV is online at www.usv.academy.

But before we get to the Q&A, special recognition also goes out to our Editor-In-Chief Jerry Doby, a former ceremonial soldier who participated in over 1,400 military funerals. He also continues to work with the American Legion and the Legion Riders, beyond being a member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture and the United States Press Corps.

As the founder and CEO of The Academy of United States Veterans, what was your transition from being a soldier to a leader in veteran affairs? Were you inspired by a particular person?

Assal Ravandi: My transition was very similar to many on the surface. However, we all have our unique experiences as we begin a new journey post-military service. For me, it was bittersweet as I was losing my military family. Yet, I was ready to move forward and start my new life. I struggled with integrating into a new and unfamiliar world. I think for many of us, such struggles never fade away. People inspire me from all walks of life. I am continuously inspired by those whose resilience sets a path for a better tomorrow for them and our society at large.

What inspired you to start The Vettys

Assal Ravandi: After returning from the military, my desire to establish that same sense of comradery into our society was my priority. I wanted to create something that would defy the stereotype of the distressed veteran who is suffering in one capacity or another. The Vettys uphold the stature of who veterans truly are by highlighting their remarkable achievements that are all too often overlooked. The Vettys bring glamour and celebration to a prestigious setting where all will still feel a sense of honor. Lastly, the Vettys unite diverse communities, just as in the military, to all come together in support of a common enterprise.

Since nothing like the Vettys existed, I felt like I owed it to my fellow brothers and sisters to create something that did, and here we are now, for its third year!

I know you are active in getting veterans integrated back into day-to-day life. How do you usually go about doing that? For you, is that at top of the list of veterans’ needs?

Assal Ravandi: It is definitely a priority. Every project that AUSV takes on is in efforts to bring the veterans’ community closer. We bring even the most unexpected communities together to support veterans in their day-to-day life. Last July we were able to get 15+ individuals from the entertainment community to create videos in support of paralyzed veteran athletes while competing at the 37th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. The whole room was overwhelmed in the most positive way and that is exactly what we strive to do. We want to make sure the community always feels proud and supported in anything they do.

How do you choose the honorees each year? What inspires you about them?

Assal Ravandi: Each of our wonderful members on our board of governors look at the contributions of each individual or organization and gives their vote based off of who’s achievements within the community have been most significant. Although there are many out there who do a lot for the community, the specific entity is selected and rewarded for their excellence in the category.

What makes Jake Tapper such a great choice as a host for this year’s event?

Assal Ravandi: We are extremely humbled and excited for Jake to be our host this year as his commitment to veterans’ issues is longstanding and deeply felt. He is the author of The Outpost: An Untold Story Of American Valor, that chronicled one of the deadliest battles for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

He is personally invested in bringing awareness to issues affecting veterans and their families by using his well-known platform. The Lead, his daily broadcast, constantly shows stories of honoring soldiers as they re-integrate into civilian life.

A lot of people are conditioned to say “thank you for your service” to a military veteran, which was discussed in this past season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. But is there something that you wish people would say instead?

Assal Ravandi: I appreciate the recognition and always feel privileged to have served.

Do you feel that there are any misconceptions about being a military veteran that has spent time in Afghanistan?

Assal Ravandi: I feel like a common misconception associated with being a military veteran that has spent time in Afghanistan is that we are disconnected from society…

Vettys and The Academy of United States Veterans aside, is there anything else that you are working on? Any projects you can talk about?

Assal Ravandi: I am always looking at new ways to bring the veterans community together and currently I’m most excited about creating a veterans networking club. Soon to be launched in 2018!

When not busy with your work or wonderful causes, how do you like to spend your free time?

Assal Ravandi: Café Milano, Café Milano, Café Milano — no, this isn’t a paid advertisement! I love Italian food and you can surely find me indulging in some mozzarella, anything truffle flavored and some prosecco in my free time!

What was your favorite album of 2017?

Assal Ravandi: Daddy K’s The Mix 11, of course because “Despacito” is the greatest song ever!

Finally, Assal, any last words for the kids?

Assal Ravandi: We have some great things in store for 2018. The first being the 3rd Annual Veterans Awards that will start the year of with a bang! Following The Vettys, we have some other collaborative projects with other VSOs and the entertainment community in the works. An Oscar-viewing party and the Veterans Of All Nations are among a few of AUSV’s upcoming events.


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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident with over 20 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his then-favorite band Superdrag. Since then, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer. Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World, TheStreet.com, Businessweek, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. Beyond being "Editor At Large" for The Hype Magazine, Darren is also the host of the bi-weekly "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" podcast, as co-produced with V13 (formerly PureGrainAudio.com). He has also co-authored two published books, 2018's "Pocket Change: Your Happy Money" (Book Web Publishing) and 2019's "Good Advice From Professional Wrestling" (6623 Press), with a second podcast set for a June 2020 launch.


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