Celebrating leaders who help veterans, revealing a new PSA and more were all part of PVA’s 2018 Mission: ABLE Awards

By PVA Communications Staff

“Together … WE are UnstoppABLE.” That was the message greeting attendees when they arrived at this year’s Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Mission: ABLE Awards. Honorable guests such as United Services Automobile Association (USAA) leadership and Air Force Junior ROTC members were delighted to have their photo taken in front of the “UnstoppABLE” backdrop before the event officially began. “UnstoppABLE” was also the predominant theme throughout the evening at this year’s Mission: ABLE Awards. An annual tradition, the Mission: ABLE Awards recognize individuals and organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and fought for expanded rights for the 22 million veterans, 56.7 million people with disabilities and 800,000 Americans living with a spinal-cord injury or disease (SCI/D).

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) welcomed over 400 guests to the 13th annual awards Sept. 25 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Attendees included Washington dignitaries, distinguished service members, veterans, their families and caregivers, friends, sponsors, partners and supporters. Patrick Murphy, former undersecretary of the Army and former Congressman from Pennsylvania, served as the event’s emcee, and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie delivered the keynote address.


A Noble Mission

During his speech, Wilkie reminisced about being an officer in the Air Force Reserve and spoke fondly about his new leadership role at the VA. 

“There is no more noble mission in the federal government than to serve the descendants of our great wars,” Wilkie says.

Wilkie also showed his great appreciation for PVA and thanked the organization for its leadership on behalf of veterans with SCI/D. 


“You remind Americans of how they sleep soundly at night,” Wilkie says of the organization’s members. “Because of YOU … We are UnstoppABLE.”


New PVA Campaign

Wilkie and the rest of those in attendance at the event witnessed the new “UnstoppABLE” campaign from PVA. The campaign focuses on how the organization mobilizes and acts on behalf of paralyzed veterans, making them “unstoppable” in their ability to move forward with dignity and independence. During this year’s Mission: ABLE Awards, PVA showcased three video vignettes highlighting the “UnstoppABLE” campaign, culminating with the first “UnstoppABLE” public service announcement. PVA Executive Director Carl Blake introduced the first video, which featured a few PVA members sharing their “unstoppable” moments through participation in adaptive sports. Throughout the evening, audience members watched the “UnstoppABLE” videos and saw the life-changing impact PVA has on veterans with disabilities. After the final video was shown, PVA Deputy Executive Director Shaun Castle delivered a speech on how the organization has helped him become “unstoppable” in his life and showed his gratitude for all of the organization’s supporters.

“We could not do what we do without the men and women in this room,” Castle says.



The event’s attendees were there for a pivotal reason  to celebrate the honorees of the 2018 Mission: ABLE Awards. This year, there were three companies that received special recognition at the Mission: ABLE Awards. The first organization honored during the event was the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) from Tampa, Fla. NMEDA received The Access: ABLE Award for its commitment to providing disability and mobility solutions that remove barriers. Danny Langfield, chief executive officer of NMEDA, accepted the award on behalf of the association.

“We’re a small trade association sharing a stage at an event of this scale, and it’s a pretty big honor,” Langfield says. “We’re pretty excited.”

USAA, who partners with PVA to help provide employment through the organization’s PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment) program, was the recipient of this year’s The Employ: ABLE Award. Based in San Antonio, USAA received the award for its leadership in trying to end unemployment in the veteran community.  Pat Teague, executive vice president of human resources at USAA, took to the stage to accept the award on behalf of USAA. The last award of the evening was presented to UPS from Atlanta. The Sustain: ABLE Award went to UPS in recognition of its continued leadership and financial support of PVA’s mission and programs and services for over 25 years. Ed Martinez, president of the UPS Foundation, and chief diversity and inclusion officer of UPS, accepted the award on behalf of UPS.


Lasting Thoughts

PVA National President David Zurfluh gave the event’s closing remarks, recognizing all of the organization’s supporters.

“I would like to thank all our partners for being a part of our PVA family,” Zurfluh says. “It’s your support that helps PVA be UnstoppABLE.”

Zurfluh concluded the evening by enthusiastically introducing the new “UnstoppABLE” PSA. 

“Remember, together with YOU, YOU and YOU, we are UnstoppABLE,” Zurfluh told the crowd.

The annual awards raised $705,000 from corporate sponsors in advance of the event. The Mission: ABLE Awards also raise funds to help keep PVA’s programs and services, such as veterans’ benefits assistance, job placement and adaptive sports programs, available and free of charge to veterans and their families.

For more information about the Mission: ABLE Awards, visit pva.org/awards


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