Commissioner Jerry L. Hester (August 13, 1931–August 5, 2022)
Jerry L. Hester. Graduate Mechanical Engineer, North Carolina State University, 1953. Former U.S. Air Force Officer, 429th Fighter Bomber Squadron. Served in the Defense Industry for over 25 years engaged in such leading edge technologies as electronic reconnaissance, electronic warfare, tactical & strategic weapons development, laser guided weapons, aerial gunships, night vision both ground and air operations. President of his own firm, Interdyne Corporation, for 35 years in Prime Contractor support operations world wide in U.S. Military logistic, construction and facilities support in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Ecuador & the United States.
His interest in World War I aviation stems from early childhood during the age of early flights in open bi-wing aircraft & Ford Tri-motors that offered a thrilling ride for $3 dollars. He then witnessed the World War II activity at his local airport, always visiting any new aircraft that landed. A lost chapter was filled when a neighbor was describing World War I as he had served in the infantry. Local library and monuments served as catalyst to seek more information over the years. After ten trips into the World War I battle areas of French, British and American sectors, museums & monuments the natural marriage of WWI & it's aviation become his focus in later years of study & research. Hester was formerly Chairman of the 70th Anniversary WWI National Committee.
He was appointed to the Commission by the then-Minority Leader of the United States Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He died while serving on August 5, 2022.
Commissioner Colonel Robert J. Dalessandro, USA (Ret.) (former Chair)
Rob Dalessandro was appointed as the deputy secretary for Headquarters Operations at the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) on September 8, 2014. Previously he was selected as a member of the Senior Executive Service and appointed as Executive Director/Chief of Military History, U.S. Army Center of Military History, on 13 February 2011.
He has over 31 years of experience in the Department of Defense serving in a variety of command and staff positions at both the operational and headquarters levels. After beginning his Federal career in 1980 as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Dalessandro served in a wide variety of leadership and staff assignments, including commands at the company, depot, and battalion levels and staff assignments at echelons of command from battalion through Department of the Army level.
Dalessandro retired from the U.S. Army in June 2009 after serving as the Director of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA. Since then, he has served as the Assistant Chief of Military History at the Center of Military History, working a wide range of administrative, technical, museum, and policy issues.
Rob was commissioned in the U.S. Army after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute with a degree in history. His graduate studies include work at the College of William and Mary, where he studied historical archeology; a master's degree in Military Arts and Science in history from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; a master's degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College; and a graduate certificate in museum collections management and care from George Washington University.
Considered one of the Army's foremost experts on battlefield interpretation, Mr. Dalessandro is widely published on the lifeways and material culture of the American Soldier.
He is editor of the Army Officer's Guide, and coauthor of Organization and Insignia of the American Expeditionary Force, 1917-1923; Willing Patriots: Men of Color in the First World War; and American Lions: The 332nd Infantry Regiment in Italy in World War One. He is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the Society for Military History, American Association of Museums, and the Company of Military Historians. He has received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Parachutist Badge.
He was appointed to the Commission by the House Minority Leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California. He resigned from the Commission in 2017.
Commissioner Edwin L. Fountain (former Vice Chair)
Edwin Fountain of Arlington, Virginia has served as General Counsel of the American Battle Monuments Commission since March 2015. He was previously a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of the international law firm Jones Day, where he practiced for 24 years. He is the grandson of two World War I veterans.
In 2008 he co-founded the World War I Memorial Foundation, which successfully advocated for funding to restore the District of Columbia's World War I memorial on the National Mall, and which has advocated for establishment of a national World War I memorial in the nation's capital. Edwin is a member of Leadership Arlington and is past president of the DC Preservation League, the leading historic preservation nonprofit in the nation's capital.
He was appointed to the commission by the then-Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. He resigned from the Commission in 2019.
Commissioner James S. Whitfield (January 12, 1926–December 6, 2016)
James (Jim) S. Whitfield of Independence, Missouri, is a Life Member of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars in the United States, and BPO Elks, all of Warrensburg, Missouri. He is an Honorably Discharged U.S. Navy veteran of World War II having served in the Far Pacific, North Atlantic, and Indian oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea, aboard the same ship for 33 months. He has been an active member of The American Legion since 1946, having served in many capacities including Executive Director, American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, IN.
Whitfield holds a B.S. Degree in Business Administration from the University of Central Missouri with Post Graduate studies in Public Administration at the University of Colorado and in Finance from Iowa University. He received the George Charno Student Citizenship/Leadership Award his senior year at UCM where he also served as Veterans Affairs Coordinator for the University with the VA, as well as President of the Student Body.
Whitfield served as the first chairman for a period of 4 years of the Missouri Veterans Commission and served a total of 10 years on the Commission. During his tenure as Chairman the Missouri State Veterans Home system of seven homes and the State Veterans Cemetery system were established. Following his employment at The American Legion National Headquarters he was Administrative Manager and Convention Director for the North American Equipment Dealers Association with offices in St. Louis County, Missouri.
He was appointed to the Commission by the American Legion. He died while serving on December 6, 2016.
Commissioner James B. Nutter, Sr. (January 23, 1928 – July 7, 2017)
James B. Nutter, Sr. of Kansas City, Missouri is a pioneer in mortgage lending, founding his mortgage lending company in 1951. The Army veteran and Midwest native wanted to help his friends purchase their own homes with the comfort of personal touch customer service. Today, the company is one of the largest privately-owned mortgage banking firms in the nation.
The success of his company has enabled Nutter to personally donate millions of dollars to a host of non-profits, including Habitat for Humanity, Mayo Clinic, Kansas City's Children's Mercy Hospital, the Harry S. Truman Library Institute, Kansas City Central Library, Boy Scouts of America (as a boy he made the rank of Eagle Scout), Saint Luke's Hospital, Little Sisters of the Poor, and Wayside Waifs animal rescue. Named for him are the James B. Nutter Sr. Family Information Commons at Ellis Library on the campus of his alma mater, the University of Missouri, and the Nutter Ivanhoe Neighborhood Center and Park in the urban core of Kansas City.
He was appointed to the Commission by the then-Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. Nutter resigned from the Commission in May of 2016. He died on July 7, 2017.
Commissioner John E. Hamilton
John E. Hamilton was appointed Adjutant General of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 2013. Prior to that appointment, Hamilton served as Commander-in-Chief of the VFW. He has been a member of the VFW for some 40 years.
A third-generation U.S. Marine, Hamilton served in the Corps from 1968-1970 including a tour in Vietnam. His decorations include the Purple Heart (3 awards) and two Gold stars, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service medal, Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze stars, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation gallantry Cross Color, Republic of Vietnam Unit Citation Civil Actions Color (First Class) and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Hamilton joined the VFW in 1974 at Post 7909 in Jacksonville, Fla. where he maintains his life membership. He has served the VFW in many leadership positions including the National Council of Administration from 1989-1991, and as State Commander from 1987-1988. Hamilton graduated with honors from Georgia Military Institute in 1967. He worked as a professional wrestler throughout the United States and the world for 15 years as Johnny Montana, (also known as "Dr. Death") along with other names and identities. Hamilton is a member of the Military Order of the Cootie, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, and Marine Corps League.
He was appointed to the Commission by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He resigned from the Commission in 2016.
Commissioner Ike Skelton (former Chair) (December 20, 1931 – October 28, 2013)
Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO) represented Missouri's Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977 to 2011. After leaving Congress he became a Partner in the Law Firm of Husch Blackwell where he offices in Washington, DC and Kansas City, MO. A leader in Congress on defense issues, Skelton was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee in 1981. He rose to Subcommittee Chairman in 1993, became the highest-ranking Democrat on the Committee in 1998 and finally, took over as Chairman in 2007. The Committee authorizes and oversees $600 billion in expenditures and over 3 million military personnel and civilians. During his tenure as Chairman the US was establishing stability in Iraq in preparation for leaving the country and solidifying its efforts to eliminate Al Qaeda as a threat to Afghanistan. The country also began massive planning for developing a strategy and shaping the military to address perceived future threats to our national security.
Skelton was a key player in the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 which established the modern structure of our armed forces. A champion for Professional Military Education, Skelton chaired a House Panel on Military Education and was known as Congress’ chief advocate for better strategic thinking and improvements in the military’s career educational programs. As Chairman of the full Committee, he oversaw a major modernization effort of the defense procurement process.
In 2011, Skelton became a partner in the Husch Blackwell law firm, practicing law in offices in Kansas City, Missouri, and Washington, D.C. He was appointed by the President to be a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission. He was also an advisor to the Center for New American Security, a distinguished professor at the National Defense University, and a trustee of the of the Harry S Truman Library Foundation. Skelton also served on the Board of Directors of EADS, North America.
A native of Lexington, Missouri, Skelton was a graduate of Wentworth Military Academy and the University of Missouri at Columbia where he received A.B. and L.L.B. degrees. He was named as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Law Review. Prior to his election to Congress in 1976, Skelton served as Lafayette County Prosecuting Attorney and as a Missouri State Senator.
Mr. Skelton was appointed to the World War I Centennial Commission by President Barak Obama and was elected the first Chair of the Commission. He passed away while serving on October 28, 2013.