The annual Eisenhower Legacy Gala was held Oct. 12 at the Eisenhower Presidential Library.
Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and World War II was this year’s gala theme.
Stephen Hauge, chairman of Eisenhower Foundation, highlighted the major renovations of the Eisenhower Museum.
“In just over four years, the Eisenhower Foundation raised $12.43 million from more than 2,000 donors,” he said.
Hauge noted that 75% of that support was contributed by Kansans and donors from Kansas City.
“Even with the Museum’s closure, IKEducation served more than 8,100 students and teachers through field trips at the Eisenhower Presidential Library,” Hauge said.
New this year, IKEducation added Hands on History carts, IKE Express (a program sending IKEducators into classrooms), and developed new curriculum to leverage the updated exhibits in the renovated Eisenhower Museum.
“In addition to these programs, this past Jun, we held a special commemoration for the 75th anniversary of D-Day where more than 70 World War II veterans, Rosies, and a survivor attended. Being in the presence of these remaining heroes of the Greatest Generation was an honor and a memory we all cherish,” Hauge said.
“We touch history by meeting those who lived it,” said Tim Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library, nodding to the two World War II veterans in attendance.
“They are human bridges reaching back to an earlier time. They connect us to it. Seventy-five years doesn’t seem that far back. What we do here [Eisenhower Presidential Library] is provide that bridge back to the times that produced Dwight D. Eisenhower and the times he produced.”
Close to Ike
Jim Sharp of Manhattan and a World War II soldier in the First Infantry Division was the keynote speaker. He shared his combat story of the Battle of the Bulge and his experience as Sergeant of the Guard at the Palace of Justice during the Nuremberg Trials where top Nazi leaders during World War II were put on trial for war crimes.
Sharp shared an intrinsic closeness to Ike, saying, “Eisenhower was my general,” even though he did not know him personally.
Sharp has written two books, Diary of a Combat Infantryman and Sergeant of the Guard at Nuremberg.
Since 2009, Eisenhower Foundation has honored two sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) at the gala event. Former Eisenhower Foundation Executive Director Mack Teasley, coordinates the awards and the delegation’s visit to Abilene.
The President Eisenhower Leadership Award honors a sailor who has done outstanding work in their local community and was presented to Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Joshua Roberson. In addition to maintaining equipment and aircraft aboard the ship, in his civilian community, Chief Roberson volunteers with the local sheriff’s office, organizes food drives, coaches youth sports, and supports other youth and community programs.
The General Eisenhower Leadership Award recognizes a sailor who has performed above and beyond in military duties aboard the ship. The 2019 recipient is Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Aimie Windemiller. Demonstrating an abundance of vision, integrity, courage, and commitment to her duties, Windemiller ensured cyber security throughout all computer networks onboard Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Her team of “cyber police” were among the very best in the Atlantic Fleet.
Visiting Ike’s town
The highlight for the leadership award winners is their trip to Ike’s hometown. While in Abilene they speak to students, are interviewed by the local radio station and newspaper, address the Rotary Club, and receive a tour of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.
They also participate in the official Presidential Wreath Laying Ceremony at Eisenhower’s burial site on the library grounds.
“The Eisenhower Foundation is honored to sponsor these Eisenhower Leadership Awards and host this delegation as they learn more about Ike and take back to their shipmates the gratitude for their service from Ike’s hometown,” said Meredith Sleichter, executive director of the Foundation.
The annual Eisenhower Legacy Award honors those who champion the life, leadership and legacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
This year’s award was presented to the 1st Infantry Division. Colonel Kevin J. Lambert, Chief of Staff of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, accepted the award presented by Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of General Eisenhower, and Jim Hagerty, vice chair of the Eisenhower Foundation.
Based at nearby Fort Riley,the 1st Infantry Division was the first to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day.
“The Big Red One has been a true partner in honoring General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the troops he led, participating at countless programs and events at the Eisenhower Presidential Library,” Hagerty said. “From laying wreaths on General Eisenhower’s tom, to bringing their military dog unit to participate in our IKEducation Dogs for Defense Day to participating in our annual D-Day commemorative activities, the 1st Infantry Division is always willing and happy to serve here at home — all the while, serving our country around the world and showing us the true meaning of ‘Duty First.’ ”
As the evening came to a close, Sleichter concluded, “Dwight D. Eisenhower’s legacy is still thriving today because of people like Jim Sharp and the Greatest Generation who served during World War II, to ensure the freedoms we still cherish today, and our soldiers, sailors, and airmen — including the 1st Infantry Division and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower — that continue to defend our great nation.”