ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The National Mall is filled with a crowd estimated in the hundreds of thousands this evening for a first-ever event. As NPR's Jasmine Garsd reports, "The Concert for Valor" is a star-studded production to honor American veterans.
JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Already this morning, people were claiming prime real estate in front of the elaborate stage with the Washington Monument in the backdrop. Elliott James (ph) was among them.
JAMES: Joined the military when I was 17 years old.
GARSD: James says as a Vietnam veteran, he showed up not only to hear the big musical act but to take part in an event he hopes will raise awareness.
JAMES: In particular about the homeless veterans, which I feel doesn't get enough recognition in this country.
GARSD: "The Concert for Valor" includes appearances by Oprah and Will Smith. The list of performances is long - Metallica, Eminem, Rihanna, Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen and several others. The whole thing is sponsored by Starbucks, Chase and HBO. The cable channel is broadcasting the concert live, offering it free for nonsubscribers.
Caroline Cunningham is the president of the Trust for the National Mall. She won't say how much money the companies are putting into the event. But she explained that HBO and Starbucks approached her wanting to shed light on ways to help those returning from wars, including employment.
CAROLINE CUNNINGHAM: Hiring veterans is an amazing way that we can not only honor the people who have sacrificed so much for their country but also to put effective people who have amazing skill sets back to work.
GARSD: This is an issue Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has spoken a lot about. Another group involved with "The Concert for Valor" is Got Your 6, which promotes veteran empowerment.
CHRIS MARVIN: The more difficult thing was the way that people looked at me.
GARSD: Chris Marvin is managing director of Got Your 6. He's a veteran who was severely wounded in Afghanistan.
MARVIN: People saw me as a charity case. They saw me as broken. And I didn't see myself that way, and I knew that most veterans were in my position.
GARSD: Marvin says tonight's concert goes to the heart of what Veterans Day is all about.
MARVIN: In the last decade, the national narrative on veterans has been too focused on charity and pity. You know, Veterans Day is a celebration of everyone who has served in the military, but it's not Memorial Day. It's a day we're supposed to celebrate especially veterans who are still with us doing amazing things all around the country.
GARSD: Concert organizers say 800,000 people are expected to attend tonight's event. Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.