American Spirit Awards

Silver Service Medallion: Past Recipients

The National WWII Museum President & CEO awards the Silver Service Medallion to veterans, and those with a direct connection to World War II, who have served our country with distinction and continue to lead by example.

2017 Recipients


John P. Laborde

John P. Laborde was born in Marksville, Louisiana, in 1923. Laborde served in the military during World War II in the Pacific theater as a captain on General Douglas MacArthur’s staff. From 1950 to 1956, he worked as a lawyer and land man for Richardson and Bass in oil-and-gas exploration and production. In 1956, he cofounded Tidewater Marine Service and served as chairman, president, and CEO from 1956 to 1994. Tidewater became the largest company of its type in the world. Laborde has been very active in business, civic, social, professional, and military organizations and was a founding trustee of The National WWII Museum, serving two terms on the board. Laborde has served on the boards of 15 public companies.


Cathy Long

Cathy Long was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1924 and joined the Navy at age 20. She served in Corpus Christi, Texas, for two years during World War II, and earned the rank of Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class. In 1947, she married Gillis Long, a decorated WWII veteran, LSU student body president, and future Louisiana congressman in the US House of Representatives. Long’s early career included working on Capitol Hill for Senator Wayne Morris and others. After Gillis’s death in 1985, Long succeeded him in Congress, having served as his campaign surrogate, speechwriter, and close advisor. As a congresswoman, Long worked on issues impacting women and minorities. Since leaving elected office, Cathy has worked for a number of years as a volunteer with the Washington, DC, nonprofit Miriam’s Kitchen serving food to the homeless, and as a reading tutor. She has been an active member of her church and spends time with family, including her two grandchildren.


Billy Michal

Billy Michal spent the entire early portion of his life in the very small sawmill town of Zimmerman, Louisiana. Zimmerman was the location of the J.A. Bentley Lumber Co., internationally known for its virgin longleaf pine lumber and timbers. At just six years old, he helped his one-room school win a statewide scrap-paper-collection contest during World War II, proving that every citizen could contribute to victory in the war. Michal went on to become a successful dentist in south Louisiana and then an instructor at Loyola University and Louisiana State University.


Mike Mervosh

Sergeant Major Mike Mervosh was born in 1923 in Pittsburgh and served in combat in every enlisted rank—from infantry units to private to sergeant major. While with the 4th Marine Division in World War II, Mervosh saw fighting in the Battles of Roi-Namur, Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. He earned two Purple Hearts for his heroics in World War II, along the Navy Commendation Medal for his actions on Iwo Jima. In his 35-year military career, Mervosh was decorated in three wars—World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War.


Norman Y. Mineta

Norman Y. Mineta is the president and CEO of Mineta and Associates LLC, and former US Secretary of Commerce and US Secretary of Transportation. Well known for his work in transportation—including aviation, surface transportation, and infrastructure—and national security, Mineta is recognized for his accomplishments in economic development, science and technology policy, foreign and domestic trade, budgetary issues, and civil rights. Mineta's career in public service has been both distinguished and unique. Recognized for his leadership, Mineta has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian honor in the United States—and the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, which is awarded for significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.


David I. Oreck

Born in 1923 in Duluth, Minnesota, David I. Oreck developed an early fascination with aviation. At the age of 18, he trained as a pilot in the US Civilian Pilot Training Program to fly aircraft to Britain for the prewar Lend-Lease program. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Oreck enlisted in the US Army Air Forces. He served as navigator and radar officer on the technologically advanced B-29 bomber, flying missions over Japan. Oreck’s next stop was New York City. He was mentored by General David Sarnoff, founder of RCA, and was involved in the introduction of black-and-white televisions and color televisions. In 1963, with little more than an idea, he created a lightweight vacuum cleaner that was as powerful as the heavier models that were common at the time. Oreck turned his vacuum cleaner into one of the best-known brands in the industry. He also maintained his love affair with flight, amassing a collection of vintage planes that he continued to pilot into his 90s. At 93, he hasn’t retired, saying, “It’s bad for your health.”


The Honorable Kaliste J. Saloom Jr. (Retired)

Kaliste J. Saloom Jr. served a long and distinguished career as a Lafayette (Louisiana) City Court Judge. Prior to being elected as judge, Saloom served in World War II as a US Army special agent in the Counter-Intelligence Corps. He served in North Africa, France, and Germany, earning two Battle Stars and a special commendation for the capture of a three-star Nazi General. Upon returning home from his military service, he started a law practice, became Lafayette City Attorney and was elected City Court Judge in 1952. He also served as Judge Pro Tempore of the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal. He retired in 1993 after more than 40 years of active service on the bench, the second longest judicial tenure in Louisiana. During this long tenure, he received numerous awards and honors for improvement and modernization of the administration of justice from local, state, and national organizations including the Outstanding Traffic Court Judge in the Nation award, the Flaschner Foundation Award from the American Bar Association, and the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame and Louisiana Political Hall of Fame.

Past Recipients

  • Dr. Hal Baumgarten
  • Richard E. Cole
  • Harry Connick Sr.
  • Elizabeth Dole
  • Walter D. Ehlers
  • Major Norman Hatch
  • The Honorable George McGovern
  • Ralph Morse
  • Amos Pierce
  • Carl Reiner
  • Betty Reid Soskin
  • Bert Stolier
  • Dr. Lester Tenney
  • Jerry Yellin

For Leadership and Service in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

  • Major Derwin E. Ward (US Army)
  • Staff Sergeant David Jacob (LA National Guard)
  • Sergeant Vernon L. Sanders (US Marine CorpsReserve)
  • Ensign Trevor Smalls (US Navy Reserve)
  • Boatswain's Mate Third Class Adam W. Lewis (US Coast Guard)
  • Captain Robert Lansden (US Merchant Marine)
  • Senior Master Sergeant Edward Dobbs (US Air Force)
  • Senior Airman Justin Herzog (LA Air National Guard)
  • Trooper First Class Mark Fontenot (LA State Police)
  • Lt. Colonel Keith LaCaze (LA Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries)
  • Officer Lejon Roberts (New Orleans Police Dept.)
  • Firefighter Terry James (New Orleans Fire Dept.)

WWII veterans who played professional baseball:

  • Lou Brissee
  • Jerry Coleman
  • Bob Feller
  • Morrie Martin
  • Johnny Pesky
  • Herb Simpson