NEW ORLEANS (April 14, 2015) — The National WWII Museum today received a $75,000 contribution from Whitney Bank. The gift will be used to support the Museum’s researchers and historians in their ongoing educational and preservation efforts, as well as honor the longtime Museum volunteer group affectionately known as the “A-Team.”
John M. Hairston, president and CEO of Hancock Holding Company, parent company of Whitney Bank, presented Whitney’s donation to Museum President and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, along with certificates that represent commemorative bricks sponsored at the Museum campus for each “A-Team” member. A band of seven WWII veteran volunteers, the “A-Team” assisted heavily with the Museum’s Speakers Bureau – an organization that gives free personalized presentations throughout the community.
“The National WWII Museum brings to life the story of the Greatest Generation and the incredible patriotism that rallied our entire nation around a fight for freedom in a war unlike any other to that point,” said Hairston. “We are pleased to help the Museum and humbled to honor the ‘A-Team.’ Their extraordinary courage and the resilient spirit of their generation changed the course of history for America and the rest of the world; and their experiences remind us that our freedoms remain intact because of the dedication and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and their families.”
Created by passionate Museum volunteer Ronnie Abboud, the “A-Team” has included WWII veterans Tom Blakey, Jack Sullivan, Frank Tuttle, George Wichterich, Vernon Main Jr. and Bert Stolier. Today, Stolier is the only living member who served in World War II.
“I joined the Museum’s Speakers Bureau back when The National D-Day Museum was just getting started 15 years ago,” said Abboud. “I truly enjoyed speaking to the local community on behalf of the Greatest Generation, but then one day it hit me—the best way to tell the story of the war is through the voices of those who actually fought in it. The next day I asked Tom and Jack to join me, and by January 14, 2001, the ‘A-Team’ had its first official speaking gig.”
The brick dedication comes at an ideal time—during National Volunteer Week. In addition to staff members, nearly 350 volunteers actively serve the Museum at the ticket counter, information desk, Solomon Victory Theater, and Kushner Restoration Pavilion. Volunteers at the Restoration Pavilion are in their seventh year of work, contributing more than 76,000 hours restoring a 78-foot Higgins Patrol-Torpedo boat. Of the total number of volunteers, 18 have served the Museum since it opened 14 years ago, and the average volunteer tenure is 4.1 years.
“I’m proud to represent the Museum as a volunteer, and I’m even more proud to have worked alongside such courageous men,” Abboud continued. “Every member of the ‘A-Team’ is a personal hero of mine. Their sacrifice is unmatched, and I’m incredibly grateful to Whitney Bank for giving us the opportunity to create a lasting tribute to this phenomenal group of gentleman—a memorial that will be around for generations to come.”
Whitney Bank also celebrates and recognizes the importance of volunteerism. The bank’s employees give their time and talents to New Orleans and communities across the Gulf Coast. Commitment to Service is one of the bank’s five core values, that’s a big reason why the institution chose to honor the A-Team’s remarkable volunteer efforts.
Today, the men and women who fought and won World War II are now mostly in their 90s—dying at the rate of approximately 492 a day, according to US Veterans Administration figures. When the newly constructed Campaigns of Courage pavilion is completed this winter, the “A-Team’s” commemorative bricks will be part of its atrium, accompanying dozens of other veterans’ names so that their collective sacrifice will always be remembered.
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. 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, teamwork, optimism, courage, and sacrifice of the men and women who served on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org. Follow us on Twitter at WWIImuseum or on Facebook.