A Virginia native living in Altoona will be among several honorees at one of the inaugural balls this weekend in Washington, D.C.
Dennis Butts, recipient of three Purple Hearts in Vietnam and founder of several companies dedicated to enhancing the lives of veterans, will be honored by event organizers as an "American hero" along with 11 others.
Butts will attend today's ball at the Hyatt Regency with an Altoona-area contingent including singer Kaylee Hoffman, songwriter Rocco D'Uva and artist Alyssa Maurer, for all of whom Butts has become a career advocate.
Hoffman will perform an arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner" written by D'Uva.
The All American Inaugural Ball is being put on by GoCity Events LLC, whose event partners include U.S. Vets TV.
The ball is not affiliated with the White House, which is holding the Inaugural Ball and the Commander in Chief Ball, according to a spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
The president and vice president will be invited, according to the event website.
"However, they are not expected to be in attendance," the site states.
U.S. Vets TV suggested Butts as an honoree, according to GoCity spokesman Mike Harrigan.
"We found him to be an outstanding individual, a true patriot and well deserving of this award," Harrigan wrote in an email.
Other honorees: U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee; federal prosecutor Arthur Rizer, who was wounded in the Iraq War; U.S. Army sergeant Monte Bernardo, who was wounded in Afghanistan; Marine Reserve Lt. Col. Justin Constantine, who was wounded in Iraq; Todd Bowers, wounded in Afghanistan as a Marine Reserve staff sergeant; and Perea Blackmon, who was Teacher of the Year for 2012 in the Washington, D.C. school district.
U.S. Vets TV is a partner in a joint venture founded by Butts called After Action Report, a webcast show on vets issues. The other partner in that joint venture is Military Comm Networks, which Butts also founded.
Butts is also founder of Military Association Benefits Group, Military Entertainment Group, Military Music Tribute and Military Art Tour.
The president of Military Association Benefits Group is Rocco D'Uva's mother, Athena D'Uva, who will also attend the ball.
She said she was working in the insurance industry when she met Butts. They created the benefits group because veterans damaged by war were having a hard time getting life insurance at reasonable rates - or at all, Athena D'Uva and Butts said.
Butts worked through some prior insurance contacts, and their group struck a deal with a firm to write a package of life, health, dental, disability, property and casualty policies for vets at rates equivalent to employer rates, Butts said.
He created Military Music Tribute to provide a vehicle for Rocco's musical abilities, which are mainly in production and engineering, according to Butts.
Athena had suggested he have a look at a local event her son was involved in, and afterwards, Butts spoke to Rocco.
"I said to Rocco, 'Let's look at how to promote this talent that you have,'" Butts said. "But you've got to find someone who can sing."
Rocco suggested Hoffman, whom Butts said has "a beautiful voice" and is a "beautiful girl with a bright personality."
"That's how we launched it," he said. "It was something I had looked at and thought about until we could find the key players."
The plan is make music "to honor our troops, veterans and their families," states the tribute website.
He's planning a tour for D'Uva and Hoffman, and the inaugural ball is the inaugural stop, he said.
They will be the lead artists for concert tours that will also feature "positive" patriotic music on military themes by service members, their families or veterans.
He discovered Maurer at Panera Bread, where she was doing scratchboard art, which requires the removal of a layer of black clay with etching tools to reveal shades of white.
When Butts asked if she would like to work on military themes, Maurer demonstrated what she could do by producing a piece featuring a combat soldier, kneeling.
"It was incredible," Butts said.
He put together an art tour for which Maurer will be the lead, displaying her pieces and supervising evaluation, acceptance and placement of "positive" works featuring military subjects by local service members, their families or veterans at each stop.
The first will be in April at the National Infantry Museum in Fort Benning, Ga..
While the music and art tours will be separate, Butts said they will intersect at the bigger art venues.
The overall goal is to help service members and their families cope with the problems of combat, especially post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, Butts said.
"When a person goes into combat, he never comes home," Butts said. "Somebody does come home ... but it's a totally different person."
Revenue generators will include subscriptions to online video platforms for artists to connect remotely, commissions to produce art to be placed in buildings like hotels and the sale of music online, by CD and in concerts, he said.
Butts originally came to this area to relax and think about retiring but he said he believes he's discovered here a "rich resource of untapped talent," represented by the people he's taking to Washington this weekend, he said.
The people with that talent are "unjaded," he said. "Not the pompous people you deal with in DC."
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.