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I had the opportunity to sit down with some very special people who have served our country and continue to impact 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 with Operations Warrior Shield (OWS) by Founder and Marine Vietnam Veteran, Ed Schloeman at Ben & Jack’s Steak House in Manhattan. Our dear friend and favorite publicist, if I may add, Mr. J. Pedone, President of Indra Public Relations, is co-hosting the event with Schloeman, so we know it will be a fantastic lunch you won’t want to miss,

I started my interview with Schloeman who told me about his background. “I served our country as a Vietnamese Navy veteran/retired New York Air National Guard, and I know firsthand the struggles of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In 2016, I launched Operation Warrior Shield a 501(c)(3) which provides comprehensive support programs for military members, veterans, first responders and their families. These programs focus on transition, health and well-being, employment, homelessness prevention, peer engagement and connection to community resources. I always like to know how and why people start a nonprofit. As a Vietnamese Navy veteran and someone who served in the military for 28 years, I know firsthand what PTSD can do and want to help our heroes defeat their demons. Over the years, I have formed great friendships with Bob Roth of the David Lynch Foundation and the late World War II veteran Jerry Yellin. Together we have brought Transcendental Meditation to those who suffer from PTSD. Now, with new friends like the Doris Day Animal Foundation, Dr Bashara and Pat Deshong from the Southampton Animal Society Foundation, we are bringing in companion dogs to help our veterans and first responders with toxic stress issues.

Who do you work with in New York. “We are working with the NYC Veterans Services Department, the NYPD Health and Wellness Section, and the organizations I mentioned above to help our heroes overcome their stress issues that lead to PTSD which takes the upper hand in their lives. We can help stop this and we need corporate sponsors to join us and help fight the 21st century black plague, toxic stress. March 21 will be a special day thanks to my dear friend MJ Pedone as we bring together nearly 100 people to raise awareness about the epidemic of veteran and first responder suicides. With many guest speakers such as boxing legends Gerry Cooney and Monte Barrett, we have veteran organizations from NYPD and NYC joining us. Also, the mayor’s office issues a proclamation to OWS. Very exciting, to say the least.

Then, I had the opportunity to speak with Monte Barrett who told me about his background. “I am an entrepreneur and owner of a boxing gym and run a non-profit organization as well as after-school and summer programs for children in Carolina. It’s great that you are also involved with the young boxers today. “Yes, I am intentional in helping them in the gym as well as in their professional careers. How will you continue to promote OWS? “I will continue to be in direct contact and build healthy relationships within the organization to see how I can play my role. I would also like to see more awareness and more support from government and support organizations to help. Can’t wait to see everyone at lunch and appreciate the support.

Finally, I spoke with Mychal Watts. Watts is a Navy 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 are in Japan, and you are taking pictures. When I returned to the United States, I processed all the films for my 13-month tour of Japan. Much to my disgust, I find that none of the images came out… 8 rolls of film. There began my quest to find out why! After my release, photography became my passion, I read books showing works of famous photographers to inspire me, then I studied technical books on image processing and darkroom. I got a job at a photo lab in New York, which led me to meet John Bellisimo, a famous photographer from the Hard Rock Cafe in New York and a client of the lab. One day I wanted to do portraits and needed a studio, so John introduced me to photographer Kevin Mazur. I used his studio a few times and then Mazur asked me to become an assistant to help him with the technical side of his photography. Thanks to my technical skills, I contributed enormously to improving his photography and quickly became his second shooter covering the events alongside him! Mazur launched my career through his influence in the industry and my talent did the rest. 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’ve also covered the Oscars, Grammys Gift suites as well as the Tribeca Film Festivals. Today, I still photograph celebrities, but I also work with professional athletes, models, business leaders, and specialize in portraits. My work runs the gamut and I 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 are extremely talented and it is such an honor to meet you and have a conversation this time. Tell us about your service dog Connie that OWS gave you. “After a crazy situation with my agency, the death of my mother, bad investments and nightmares over the years, I received Connie who goes by the name of Colonel Justin Constantine, a deceased Navy veteran. Connie is an amazing partner who has helped me just by being a great dog and knows how to calm me down when she senses my anxiety! Connie quickly became my best friend and the best therapist I’ve ever had, as long as I have peanut butter!

I am truly grateful for this interview and hope you can support what will be another fantastic event hosted by Indra’s PR team. If you wish to attend the lunch, do not hesitate to buy tickets by visiting:

If you want to learn more about OWS, please visit,


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