American Spirit Awards

American Spirit Medallion: Past Recipients

Since its beginning as The National D-Day Museum, the Museum has bestowed this award upon individuals who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy. Through their work and philanthropy, American Spirit Medallion recipients exemplify the highest standards of integrity, discipline, and initiative while making unselfish contributions to their community, state, or nation.

2022 Recipients


The Honorable Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson

The Honorable Jacquelyn “Jackie” Clarkson has dedicated her life to public service and the success of the city of New Orleans. She served in a variety of political offices for more than two decades, including as a New Orleans City Councilwoman and a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. Among her many honors, Clarkson is a Trustee Emerita and Founders Society Member of The National WWII Museum. She was instrumental in securing the first state funding for the Museum, and her longtime support, particularly during the critical early years prior to its 2000 opening, made the vision for a museum dedicated to the American experience in World War II a reality.

As a district councilwoman, she represented New Orleans on both sides of the Mississippi River and was later elected to an at-large position. Clarkson is known for her commitment to public safety, historic preservation, and economic development, including cultivation and support for the city’s cultural economy and especially for the city’s children. Her passion for the New Orleans Recreation Department’s ballet program resulted in training for over 22,000 local children.

Clarkson’s longtime leadership has shaped New Orleans into the thriving city it is today, and her tireless dedication to advancing our community continues to inspire New Orleanians of all ages. Her commitment to public service and community engagement represent the unity of purpose and resilience embraced by all Americans during World War II. Having the love and devotion of her husband and raising a beautiful family are among her greatest achievements, says Clarkson.

Photo by George Long

Carol Rittner, RSM, PhD

Dr. Carol Rittner has dedicated her life to scholarship, activism, and her Christian faith. As the Distinguished Emerita Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Dr. Marsha Raticoff Grossman Professor of Holocaust Studies at Stockton University, Rittner’s research, teaching, and filmmaking about the Holocaust continue to advance a deeper understanding of the origins and response to this history. In addition to her scholarship, Rittner is a Catholic nun of more than six decades with the Religious Sisters of Mercy and thus brings a distinct perspective to Holocaust studies by examining the participation of Christians in the Holocaust and other genocides of the 20th century.

Among her many distinctions, Rittner is an Academy Award–nominated filmmaker, internationally renowned lecturer, and liaison to the United Nations who is active in numerous organizations working to prevent genocide. Rittner’s commitment to serving others and creating a better world reflects that same spirit that inspired an entire generation of Americans to dedicate themselves to the cause of Allied victory.


Charles C. Teamer Sr., PhD
(US Army Veteran)

Dr. Charles Teamer is a veteran and a distinguished business, civic, and education leader who has served the New Orleans community for more than 50 years. In addition to his many awards, recognitions, and honors, Teamer served as an exhibit advisor for The National WWII Museum’s special traveling exhibit, Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II, which has shared this important aspect of our wartime history with a national audience. Teamer’s dedication to strengthening his community through civic engagement, volunteerism, and education reflects these same values that helped the WWII generation secure victory.

His exemplary record of public service is demonstrated through his chairmanship of various organizations, including the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Greater New Orleans, Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, The World Trade Center, and The Urban League New Orleans. He has been a board member for the Audubon Institute, Audubon Commission, Ochsner Medical Foundation, and Greater New Orleans, Inc., among others. He is the Co-Founder and former Chairman of Dryades Savings Bank, Board Member for First National Bank of Commerce, and most recently, a consultant for Hancock Whitney Bank.

Teamer is well known for work in higher education, ending a 40-year career at Dillard University. He was Vice President of Fiscal Affairs at both Dillard and Clark Atlanta University, his alma mater. Teamer consulted and advised the US Department of Education and served as a member of the Louisiana Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and Tulane University. He is a lifetime member of the NAACP and Past President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and former International President of Grand Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi, Inc., the two oldest fraternities for Black males.

He was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, by Clark Atlanta University.

2021 Recipients



An avid aviator who served in the US Army and Mississippi National Guard, Dan Fordice has flown vintage WWII aircraft across the world, including the C-47 That’s All Brother from the D-Day invasion, and is the founder of two nonprofits that honor veterans and active-duty servicemembers.



Photo Credit: Annie Leibovitz, photographer.

As one of the first African American women to work for NASA as a mathematician, Katherine Johnson provided critical calculations to ensure the success of several historic US space missions from 1953 to 1986, serving as an inspiration to generations of Americans.



A Holocaust survivor who escaped to America from the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland, Anne Levy has served as an educator and activist, confronting Holocaust deniers, standing up to prejudice, and also dedicating her time as a longtime volunteer at The National WWII Museum.



A woman of many firsts, Major General Angela Salinas broke ground as the first Latina promoted to General officer ranks in the US Marine Corps, the first woman to command a Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and now serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas.

2019 Recipients


The Honorable Everett Alvarez Jr.

A native of Salinas, California, Everett Alvarez Jr. enlisted in the US Navy after receiving an electrical engineering degree from the University of Santa Clara. His military decorations include the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and two Purple Hearts. He was the first American aviator downed over North Vietnam and was held as a prisoner of war from August 1964 to February 1973. His two books, Chained Eagle and Code of Conduct, describe his experiences in captivity and rebuilding his life after Vietnam, which includes obtaining a law degree after his 1980 retirement from the Navy. Alvarez has served as a senior administrator for the Peace Corps and Department of Veterans Affairs, and founded two Virginia-based consulting services—Conwal Inc. (1987) and Alvarez & Associates (2004). He has served on numerous boards of directors and councils. Among the structures and institutions named for him are a post office, a city park, and a high school.


Gayle Benson

Gayle Benson provides leadership for the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans as owner, succeeding her husband, Tom Benson, who passed away on March 15, 2018, after serving as the owner of the Saints since 1985 and the Pelicans franchise since 2012. A New Orleans native, Benson is an accomplished business professional and philanthropist with strong ties to the local community who is dedicated to contributing to the growth and enhancement of the Gulf South region.

After marrying in 2004, the Bensons worked together to build championship-level NBA and NFL organizations housed in state-of-the-art facilities at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and Smoothie King Center, while making a positive impact in the community away from the basketball court and football field.

Community investment and giving back have been hallmarks of the Bensons’ ownership of the Pelicans and Saints, a tradition that continues under Mrs. Benson’s stewardship as she enriches the New Orleans community through multiple initiatives, including philanthropic work in the health-and-wellness, education, and arts sectors. Additionally, as dedicated corporate citizens, the Saints and Pelicans annually put millions of dollars back into the community through financial support, in-kind donations, and charitable appearances.


Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Wall Street Journal, where her weekly column, Declarations, has run since 2000. She is also the author of nine books on American politics, history, and culture, including the best sellers What I Saw at the Revolution and When Character Was King. She is one of 10 historians and writers who contributed essays on the American presidency for the book Character Above All. Noonan was a special assistant and speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, and worked with him on the stirring speech he delivered in Normandy on the 40th anniversary of D-Day (“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc …”). In 2010 she was given the Award for Media Excellence by the living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. She has been a fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, and has taught at Yale University. Before entering the Reagan White House, Noonan was a producer and writer at CBS News in New York, and an adjunct professor of Journalism at New York University. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up there, in Massapequa Park, Long Island, and in Rutherford, New Jersey. She is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rutherford.  She lives in New York City.


Gerhard L. Weinberg, PhD

Gerhard L. Weinberg, PhD, is an internationally recognized authority on Nazi Germany and the origins and course of World War II. He is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author or editor of numerous books and articles on 20th-century European and world history. He is the 2009 Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing, and he currently sits on the Museum’s Presidential Counselors advisory board.

2018 Recipients


Archie Manning

When people think of Archie Manning, they think football—but Archie’s appeal transcends his athletic achievements. People far and wide have been inspired by his warm personality, drive, and sense of humor. Archie is active in a wide variety of charitable and civic causes. His community activities include Louisiana Special Olympics, the New Orleans Area Boy Scout Council, The Salvation Army, United Way Speakers Bureau, Allstate Sugar Bowl Committee, and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. He is also Chairman of the Board of the National Football Foundation. Archie attended the University of Mississippi, where he was an All-American. He was voted Mississippi’s Greatest All-Time Athlete in 1992 and was named Mississippi’s Most Popular Athlete of the Century. In 1971, Archie was the second player chosen in the NFL draft—the number one draft choice of the New Orleans Saints. While in pro football, he received the Byron “Whizzer” White Humanitarian Award, the Bart Starr Humanitarian Award, and the Spirit of Good Sports Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Archie recently received one of the highest honors in football, the Gold Medal Award, presented by the National Football Foundation, which has gone to seven Presidents, Admirals and Generals, corporate CEOs, and other distinguished Americans.

Archie Manning

Susan Hess

Susan Hess has been an active and dedicated volunteer in the New Orleans community all of her adult life. Along with enjoying a successful professional career in the film and video industry, she’s served on or been an officer on the boards of many local organizations, including the University of New Orleans Foundation, the Louisiana Nature and Science Center, the LA/SPCA, the Trust for Public Land, the Jewish Endowment Foundation, the National Urban League, the Girl Scouts of America, Tulane Hillel, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Longue Vue Foundation.  She also founded the Louisiana Association of Film and Video Professionals, and was appointed by Governor Edwin Edwards to serve on the Louisiana Film Commission.  When The National D-Day Museum was born, Susan became a Board Trustee.  She was also the creator and first chair of the institution’s annual Victory Ball. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Susan became a member of Women of the Storm and One Greater New Orleans with the goal of Rebuilding New Orleans. Some of the honors conferred on Susan include the UNO Chancellor’s Medallion for Distinguished Service and the UNO Alumnus of the Year Award. She received the Weiss Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice. She was also selected as a Role Model by the Young Leadership Council, as a YWCA Role Model, and as a recipient of the Prix d’Elegance Award. In 2014, Susan was recognized by New Orleans Magazine as one of its Female Achievers. Most recently, she served as President of the Board of City Park, and worked hard to make the park—which had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina—into a world-class New Orleans icon.

Susan Hess

Adair Margo

Adair Margo is the First Lady of El Paso, Texas, and a third-generation El Pasoan. She attended Vanderbilt University, where she earned a degree in art history, studying the Italian Renaissance abroad in Florence, Italy, with Syracuse University her junior year. Upon completing her master’s in art history from New Mexico State University, she opened Adair Margo Gallery in El Paso, which exhibited over 400 artists from 12 countries between 1985 and 2010. She became especially devoted to fellow El Pasoan, Tom Lea, recording and co-editing Tom Lea: An Oral History, which won the Border Regional Library Association Award, and founding the Tom Lea Institute in 2009. She co-authored Tom Lea, LIFE Magazine, and World War II with scholar Melissa Renn, PhD, and has contributed to four other books on Tom Lea and Southwestern borderlands illustrator, José Cisneros. Adair served as Chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities during the two-term presidency of George W. Bush and was appointed by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the US National Commission for UNESCO. She received the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008 from President Bush, who cited her “strengthening of international relationships from Mexico to China,” and the Aguila Azteca, the highest recognition given by the Mexican government to a non-citizen, in 2007. Adair is married to Dee Margo, Mayor of El Paso, and has two grown sons.

Adair Margo

2017 Recipients


James L. Barksdale

James L. Barksdale is chairman of the board and president of Barksdale Management Corp., a private company that manages his investments and philanthropic activities. The Barksdale Foundation established the Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi in 1997. In January 2000, the foundation granted $100 million to the state of Mississippi for creation of The Barksdale Reading Institute to help Mississippi children improve their reading skills. Among his many other philanthropic ventures, Barksdale has also served in various government roles, including chairman of the Governor’s Commission on the Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal of Mississippi, and member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under President George W. Bush.



In June 1952, Captain James A. Lovell graduated from the US Naval Academy and was designated a naval aviator. In 1958, he entered the Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. Upon graduation was assigned project manager for the F4H fighter-jet test program. In October 1962, Lovell was selected as a NASA astronaut. During the next 11 years, he made four space flights: Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8, and Apollo 13. Lovell was the navigator on the historic Apollo 8 mission—man’s first flight to the moon. On Apollo 13, 200,000 miles from Earth, an explosion on the spacecraft forced him and his crew to successfully bring home a crippled spacecraft. In 1994, Lovell and Jeff Kluger wrote Lost Moon, the story of the Apollo 13 mission. In 1995, the film Apollo 13 was released. Over the years, Lovell has been the recipient of many medals, awards, and honors, and has served on numerous civic and charitable boards. In January 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Lovell as consultant to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Lovell served as council chairman under four presidents until retiring in 1978.Currently, he is an active board member on the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, the Adler Planetarium, and the National Museum of the American Sailor Foundation.


Phyllis M. Taylor

Phyllis M. Taylor is chair of Endeavor Enterprises LLC, a management company to oversee the various Taylor operations. She is also chair and CEO of Taylor Energy Company since the death of her husband, Patrick F. Taylor, in November 2004. A graduate of Tulane University Law School, Taylor served as law clerk for the Supreme Court of Louisiana and Orleans Parish Civil District Court. Her career in the oil industry began in 1972, when she became in-house counsel for John W. Mecom Sr. Honored for her activism and philanthropy, Taylor serves on numerous civic and charitable boards and has led many community initiatives.

Past Recipients

  • Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen
  • Vernon Baker
  • Senator Howard H. Baker Jr.
  • Van T. Barfoot
  • Tom Brokaw
  • President George H.W. Bush
  • Senator Robert "Bob" Dole
  • Rear Admiral Robert F. Duncan
  • Colonel Terry Ebbert
  • John Finn
  • Dr. Norman C. Francis
  • Maurice "Hank" Greenberg
  • Tom Hanks
  • Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré
  • Arthur J. Jackson
  • Peter Kalikow
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • Bonnie McElveen-Hunter
  • Charles P. Murray Jr.
  • General Colin L. Powell
  • Secretary of State George Shultz
  • Gary Sinise
  • John Whitehead
  • Governor William Winter

WWII Veterans Serving in Congress in 2004:

  • Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) (Army)
  • Representative Cass Ballenger (R-NC) (Navy)
  • Representative John D. Dingell (D-MI) (Army)
  • Representative Ralph M. Hall (D-TX) (Navy)
  • Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC) (Army)
  • Representative Amory F. Houghton (R-NY) (Marines)
  • Representative Henry J. Hyde (R-IL) (Navy)
  • Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) (Army)
  • Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) (Holocaust Survivor)
  • Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) (Army)
  • Representative Ralph Regula (R-OH) (Navy)
  • Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) (Air Force)
  • Senator John Warner (R-VA) (Navy, Marines)