CHARLESTON, SC – The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation today announced the addition of five new members to its Board of Directors, who will play a leadership role in the creation of a permanent home to honor America’s bravest heroes.
The new board members are: Major William Swenson, U.S. Army active duty and Medal of Honor Recipient; Matthew Zames, President and Senior Managing Director, Cerberus Capital Management; Mike Hayes, Senior Vice President and Head of Strategic Operations, Cognizant Technologies; Debra Burlingame, 9/11 Community Leader; and Brad Meltzer, bestselling author and television host. They are joining six current members of the board as well as former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, who serve as Honorary Directors. The new appointments are effective immediately.
“We are deeply honored to have these distinguished individuals join our Board of Directors and thank them for saying ‘yes’ to this vital undertaking,” said Peter Stent, Chairman of the National Medal of Honor Museum. “Together, we will fulfill the promise of a museum that will commemorate our best and bravest who serve as an inspiration to us all.”
The museum also announced an extraordinary gift of $1 million from those board members who were elected prior to today, reflecting their deep and ongoing commitment to establishing a national treasure that will celebrate our heroes – those who have shown the ultimate sacrifice, courage and selflessness to their fellow citizens. The Congressional Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest military decoration. Since its founding in 1863, 3,519 Medals of Honor have been awarded.
“The board members of this museum, old and new, are devoted to the mission of the National Medal of Honor Museum and the values that the Medal of Honor represents,” said Joe Daniels, CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum. “This inspiring financial gift will serve as a catalyst for future Board giving as well as general, major support. It is an honor to serve at the pleasure of this Board.”
The National Medal of Honor Museum will be located on Patriots Point near the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, at the edge of Charleston Harbor. It will offer an experience that draws personal and emotional connections to Medal of Honor recipients and their stories, while shedding light on the wars in which they fought and the ideals that the Medal of Honor represents. Visitors will come to understand the meaning and price of freedom—and appreciate the virtue of putting service above self.
The museum is currently in the design phase and is working with world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie and his team, along with Patrick Gallagher, exhibition designer for the National World War II Museum. When completed, the museum will include approximately 24,000 square feet of exhibit space, a chapel for quiet reflection and contemplation, and an education center aimed at character development in our nation’s youth.
A campaign to raise upwards of $100 million to fund the development of the museum is underway, with support to date from more than 22,000 donors from all 50 states. The museum’s projected opening date is targeted for March 25, 2023, which will coincide with National Medal of Honor Day.
Background on the new board members is below.
Major William D. Swenson, Medal of Honor Recipient, Active Duty U.S. Army
Major William D. Swenson joined the U.S. Army in 2002. He then attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He attended the Infantry Officer Basic Course and earned his branch qualification in Infantry.
Swenson served one tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan. For his final tour in Afghanistan he was assigned to Task Force Phoenix, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan and served as an Afghan Border Police advisor, in support of 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Swenson’s awards and decorations include, the U.S. Army Parachutist Badge, the Ranger tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, The Iraq Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one campaign star, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon (Numeral 2 device) and the NATO Medal.
Matthew Zames, President and Senior Managing Director, Cerberus Capital Management
Matthew Zames joined Cerberus in 2018. He is leading a number of operational and strategic initiatives, including overseeing all investments in the financial services industry, growing its understanding and use of technology, data and AI. Zames was most recently the COO and a member of the Operating Committee of JPMorgan Chase & Co. from 2012 to 2017. Prior to that he held a number of senior leadership positions at JPMorgan and Credit Suisse. Zames is a former member and chairman of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee.
He is also a former member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Treasury Market Practices Group. Additionally, he is a member of the Economic Club of New York and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a member of the MIT Sloan Finance Group Advisory Board, the Board of Directors of Business Executives for National Security (BENS), the Board of Directors of the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundations, the Board of Directors of Guiding Eyes for the Blind and Board Co-Chairman of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.
Mike Hayes, SVP and Head of Strategic Operations, Cognizant Technologies
Mike Hayes is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy SEALs, two White House administrations, and has held senior executive roles in the private sector. Hayes’ last job in the Navy was the Commanding Officer of SEAL Team TWO, which included ten months as the Commander of a 2,000-person Special Operations Task Force in southeastern Afghanistan.
A White House Fellow (‘08/’09), he served two years as Director, Defense Policy and Strategy at the National Security Council. In the Bush Administration, Hayes was responsible for the START Treaty, where he produced a new proposed START Treaty and conducted negotiations with the Russians in Moscow. In the Obama administration, Hayes led the White House response to President Obama’s first major foreign policy showdown — the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia.
In the private sector, Hayes served in Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer roles at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest and most successful hedge fund. Hayes currently serves as SVP and Head of Strategic Operations at Cognizant Technology.
Hayes holds an M.A. in Public Policy from Harvard’s J.F.K. School of Government and received his B.A. from Holy Cross College, where he was an active Big Brother. His military decorations include the Bronze Star for valor in combat in Iraq, a Bronze Star for Afghanistan, and the Defense Superior Service Medal from the White House.
Debra Burlingame, 9/11 Community Leader
Ms. Burlingame is the sister of Captain Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame, III, pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Ms. Burlingame was formerly a producer at Court TV where she covered dozens of civil and criminal legal proceedings ranging from the OJ Simpson trial and the Clinton impeachment hearings to the Microsoft anti-trust case. She wrote pieces for broadcast on Constitutional appellate cases, consumer law, and legal news and helped launch a documentary series involving cold criminal cases. Ms. Burlingame has written articles on a variety of national security and terrorism issues for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News and other national publications. She has testified before the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives and is a founding member of the board of directors of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Foundation.
Ms. Burlingame is a graduate of New York University and Cardozo School of Law.
Brad Meltzer, Author and Television Host
Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Escape Artist, The Inner Circle, and ten other bestselling thrillers. In addition to his fiction, Brad is one of the only authors to ever have books on the bestseller list for Non-Fiction (History Decoded), Advice (Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter), Children’s Books (I Am Amelia Earhart and I Am Abraham Lincoln) and even comic books (Justice League of America), for which he won the prestigious Eisner Award. He is also the host of Brad Meltzer’s Lost History on H2 and Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on the History Channel. Through Lost History, Meltzer was responsible for helping to find the missing 9/11 flag that the firefighters raised at Ground Zero.
About the National Medal of Honor Museum
The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation is a non-profit educational organization established to preserve and present the stories of the nation’s Medal of Honor recipients. The Museum aims to showcase acts of valor, share real-life examples of patriotism, leadership and courage and inspire current and future generations. For more information, visit mohmuseum.org