Honorees to Include WWII Veteran Paul Hilliard, Actors Tom Hanks and Wendell Pierce, and ABC News Anchor Robin Roberts.
NEW ORLEANS (August 8, 2023) — During the 2023 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention, hosted in New Orleans by The National WWII Museum, four accomplished Americans will accept honors for their life’s work promoting the values of the United States and the Medal of Honor.
Presented by the Stephen G. and Regina Oswald Foundation, the 2023 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention is the largest annual gathering of Medal of Honor Recipients and one of the country’s most prestigious and patriotic events, providing opportunities for Recipients to reunite with one another and to share their stories of service and courage with local students, veterans, active-duty military and community members. The Convention will feature a series of public and private events from October 30 through November 4, including the highly anticipated Patriot Awards Gala presented by The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation on November 3.
This year’s honorees at the gala will include WWII veteran and retired business leader Paul Hilliard, acclaimed actor and director Tom Hanks, co-anchor of ABC News’ Good Morning America Robin Roberts, and renowned actor and community activist Wendell Pierce. The Society’s awards recognize those who promote and perpetuate the principles upon which our nation is founded and encourage the six core values of courage, commitment, integrity, sacrifice, citizenship and patriotism.
Patriot Award: Paul Hilliard
The Society’s highest honor, the Patriot Award is reserved for individuals who, through their life’s work, have distinguished themselves as Americans dedicated to freedom and the ideals represented by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
WWII veteran, entrepreneur, corporate executive and philanthropist Paul Hilliard embodies the values of commitment, sacrifice and patriotism. At 17 years old, Hilliard joined the United States Marine Corps, flying 45 combat missions in the Pacific during World War II as a radioman and gunner in Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Following the war and college, he entered the oil and gas industry and founded Badger Oil in Lafayette, Louisiana. Over nearly two decades, he has become one of The National WWII Museum’s most ardent advocates, supporting its educational mission and the preservation of oral histories and aircraft as well as serving as Chairman of the Board from 2018–2020.
Bob Hope Award for Entertainment: Tom Hanks
The Bob Hope Award is reserved for those who, through their life’s work in the entertainment industry, have distinguished themselves by outstanding service to or positive portrayal of the US military in literature or film.
Throughout his successful career as one of the most well-respected actors, writers, and filmmakers of our time, Tom Hanks has embodied the same American values that motivated WWII servicemembers, inspiring new audiences and younger generations through his creative and civic work. As an avid advocate for the preservation of WWII history and media representation, Hanks has starred in or executive produced several WWII projects, including the highly acclaimed film Saving Private Ryan; the iconic HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific; the upcoming miniseries Masters of the Air; the naval thriller Greyhound; and The National WWII Museum’s 4D experience, Beyond All Boundaries. He has worked tirelessly in support of military caregivers, serving as campaign chair of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Campaign. As honorary Chairman of the Museum’s Road to Victory Capital Campaign, he was instrumental in its development into the preeminent museum on World War II.
John R. “Tex” McCrary Award for Excellence in Journalism: Robin Roberts
The “Tex” McCrary Award is reserved for those persons from the fourth estate who, through their life’s work, have distinguished themselves by service or unbiased coverage of the US military through journalism in peace and war.
Journalist and producer Robin Roberts has made a remarkable impact both locally and nationally through her reporting. A Mississippi native and a Southeastern Louisiana University alumna, Roberts is known for her work with ESPN and as co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. A self-proclaimed “Air Force brat,” Roberts is the daughter of Colonel Lawrence Roberts, who served as a WWII pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen. Roberts honored her father’s legacy by producing and narrating the Tuskegee Airmen: Legacy of Courage documentary with her production company, Rock’n Robin Productions; narrating a video on the Tuskegee Airmen for The National WWII Museum’s Fighting for the Right to Fight special exhibit; and is currently producing a documentary on the Harlem Hellfighters, an all-Black WWI military infantry unit. Throughout her career as a journalist, Roberts has reported on different aspects of the US military, including covering V-E Day commemorations and bringing national attention to decorated US Navy Seal Chris Kyle and his widow, Taya.
Distinguished Citizen Award: Wendell Pierce
The Distinguished Citizen Award recognizes individuals who, through their life’s work, have distinguished themselves as Americans dedicated to freedom and the ideals represented by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Renowned actor, producer, author, entrepreneur and humanitarian Wendell Pierce, a New Orleans native, has been an indispensable force in his local community. Known internationally for his roles in The Wire, Treme, Jack Ryan and Suits, as well as his Tony Award-nominated performance in Death of a Salesman on Broadway in 2022, Pierce is a fierce advocate for his hometown, helping shed light on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and leading the nonprofit Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp, which has become one of the largest affordable, single-family, energy-efficient developments in New Orleans. He is the son of Amos Pierce, a decorated WWII veteran whose segregated Army unit helped Marines win the Battle of Saipan. To help preserve the legacy of the WWII generation, Pierce voiced Sergeant Thomas McPhatter in The National WWII Museum’s 4D experience, Beyond All Boundaries, and narrated portions of its interactive What Would You Do? experience.
Hilliard, Hanks, Roberts and Pierce will join Medal of Honor Recipients and their families this fall in New Orleans, where the Convention is being hosted for the first time. The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest military award for valor in action, presented to those who have demonstrated gallantry and intrepidity, at the risk of their lives, above and beyond the call of duty. These distinguished individuals are set apart by their integrity and deep love of country, their courage and sacrifice. Since it was first awarded in 1863, 3,535 Medals of Honor have been bestowed on our nation’s bravest, and today, there are 65 living Recipients.
The 2023 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention will be held in conjunction with the Museum’s D-Day to Liberation: Road to Victory Celebration—marking the opening of Liberation Pavilion, its final permanent exhibit hall; the dedication of Col. Battle Barksdale Parade Ground; and the completion of the $400 million Road to Victory Capital Campaign that has propelled the extraordinary growth of the Museum’s campus from one exhibit hall to seven pavilions over the past two decades.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information on Tripadvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.
About the Congressional Medal of Honor Society
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Medal of Honor and its Recipients, inspiring Americans, and supporting the Recipients as they connect with communities across the country. Chartered by Congress in 1958, its membership consists exclusively of those individuals who have received the Medal of Honor. There are 65 living Recipients.
The Society carries out its mission through outreach, education and preservation programs, including the Medal of Honor Museum, Congressional Medal of Honor Outreach Programs, the Congressional Medal of Honor Character Development Program, and the Congressional Medal of Honor Citizen Honors Awards for Valor and Service. The Medal of Honor Museum was established by Congress under the 1999 Medal of Honor Memorial Act and is the official Museum for the Recipients. The Society’s programs and operations are funded by donations. Learn more about the Medal of Honor and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s initiatives at cmohs.org.