Newsweek editor in chief Tina Brown told ITK at the ceremony that veterans “come back with these amazing experiences and these incredible lessons of life and things that they’ve seen. And we don’t get to spend any time getting to hear their stories about what they’ve seen and learned.”

Brown says she’s hoping to change that, as The Daily Beast website launches a “Hero Project” section.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) applauded the effort, saying, “I think the whole subject of heroism and how we define it and what it means is really an important subject for us to talk about.”

There was even an added bonus for the Democratic National Committee chairwoman’s middle-school-age son. “He was actually just given an assignment about what makes a hero,” Wasserman Schultz said. She confirmed with a laugh, “He got a little help from mom, yes.”

Beals said she thought she might learn something by heading to the summit, which Brown says she hopes to turn into an annual event. The “L Word” actress explained the night was a way of “researching your own history, your own country’s history, and try to understand what people have been through and how they’ve had to expand beyond themselves to become helpful to others.”

While the kick-off was a celebration of the nation’s armed forces, speakers didn’t hold back about what was on the minds of many at the summit, speaking candidly about the David Petraeus scandal that has rocked Washington.

The first mention of Petraeus’s name triggered loud applause from the audience. Adm. William McRaven, who led the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, called the former CIA director “the finest general I ever worked for, period,” but repeatedly added, “I don’t condone what he did.” 

U2 frontman Bono donned his trademark pair of shades as he dined at the same table as Wasserman Schultz and others.

The singer, who says he has been interviewed hundreds of times over the years, seemed delighted to turn the tables on famed New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and ask the journalist questions.

Bono cracked that he was at the summit because “they wanted to add a little bling to all the brass in the room and they got me.”

Also spotted at the event: Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and his wife, Debbie Dingell, "CBS This Morning" anchor Charlie Rose, White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard, Tammy Haddad, ABC News's Martha Raddatz and Lanny Davis

Photos: Scott Henrishsen