Press Release

The National WWII Museum and Hancock Whitney Present 2018 American Spirit Awards


NEW ORLEANS (May 31, 2018) – The National WWII Museum is pleased to announce the 2018 recipients of the American Spirit Award – the highest honor bestowed by the Museum. The honorees, who will be presented with the award at a June 8 black-tie gala in the Museum’s US Freedom Pavilion, include Senator John McCain, actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise and business leader Maurice Greenberg.

The American Spirit Award recognizes individuals who best exemplify the outstanding qualities of the American spirit, including teamwork, optimism and determination. Most recent past winners of the prestigious award include two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough and patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.

The American Spirit Awards is a multi-day celebration in New Orleans on June 7 and 8 that culminates in the formal awards gala on the Museum’s campus. Throughout the two days, awards will be presented to individuals from across the country who inspire others through their own acts of courage, sacrifice, initiative and generosity, particularly in the areas of leadership, service to country and education.

“This year’s award recipients have all demonstrated a powerful ability to strengthen the American spirit through service, philanthropy and sense of community,” said Stephen J. Watson, President & CEO at The National WWII Museum. “We are humbled by their dedication to this nation, grateful for the actions they take for betterment of others and inspired by the sacrifices they have made to improve our society.”

At a luncheon on June 8, three individuals will also receive the American Spirit Medallion — an honor bestowed upon those who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy. The 2018 American Spirit Medallion recipients include Archie Manning, New Orleans NFL legend and community leader; Susan Hess, New Orleans community leader and past member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees; and Adair Margo, First Lady of El Paso, TX, and author.

Additionally, the Silver Service Medallion will be presented to decorated WWII veteran Lt. General Victor “Brute” Krulak USMC (Ret.), who will receive the award posthumously; Vietnam veteran Gen. Charles C. Krulak USMC (Ret.), past Commandant of the Marine Corps and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Bernice “Bee” Falk Haydu, WWII WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilot), Congressional Gold Medal Recipient and member of the Aviation Hall Fame. The Silver Service Medallion is given 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.

The Museum will also bestow the annual Billy Michal Student Leadership Award to one student from each state who demonstrates the American spirit in his or her community. The award is named after Michal — a 2017 Silver Service Medallion winner — who was just a child during World War II. At the age of 6 years old, he helped his one-room school win a statewide scrap paper-collection contest during the war, proving that every citizen could contribute to victory in the war.

The students who receive the honor have a strong record of volunteerism, school and community activism and implementing creative solutions to recognized problems. Selected awardees will be flown to New Orleans to participate in the Museum’s Awards activities.

The American Spirit Awards gala will be preceded by a patron party reception at the Windsor Court Hotel on June 7. On June 8, a luncheon and leadership forum will be held in the Museum’s US Freedom Pavilion beginning at 10:30 a.m. The awards presentation and seated dinner will begin at 6:00 p.m. the same evening. Specialty menu items will be prepared by local culinary leaders from Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group including Executive Chef Chris Montero, Napoleon House; Executive Pastry Chef Brett Gauthier, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group; Executive Chef Chip Flanagan, Ralph’s on the Park; Executive Chef Slade Rushing, Brennan’s; and Executive Chef Austin Kirzner, Red Fish Grill. Entertainment includes The Temptations Review with special guest Theo Peoples.

Proceeds from the American Spirit Awards will support educational programming at The National WWII Museum—including the ongoing development of classroom materials and professional-development opportunities for teachers in schools across the country, as well as online experiences that bring the Museum and its resources to students around the world.

For American Spirit Awards ticket information and additional event details, visit or call 504-528-1944 ext. 334.

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 future generations will know 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, it celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. The 2017 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards ranks the Museum No. 2 in the world and No. 2 in the nation. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit