Secretary of State Jesse White
BIO: Jesse White is Illinois’ 37th Secretary of State. White was first elected to the office in 1998 and won landslide victories in 2002, in which he won all 102 counties, and again in 2006 and 2010. On November 4, 2014, White was re-elected to a record-breaking fifth term, winning another landslide victory by a 2-to-1 margin in which he earned over 2.3 million votes statewide – more than 230,000 votes than any other statewide constitutional candidate. White became Illinois’ longest serving Secretary of State on May 30, 2014.
The Illinois Secretary of State’s office is the largest and most diverse office of its kind in the nation, providing more direct services to the people of Illinois than any other public agency. White’s office issues state ID cards, vehicle license plates and titles; registers corporations; enforces the Illinois Securities Act; administers the Organ/Tissue Donor Program; licenses drivers; and maintains driver records. As State Librarian, Secretary White oversees the State Library and literacy programs, and as State Archivist, he maintains records of legal or historic value.
Under White’s leadership, customer service has been improved through the use of technology as well as modernizing and streamlining operations. Wait times in facilities are shorter than ever before. Illinois has become a national leader in road safety as White strengthened DUI laws, reformed the CDL program and overhauled teen driving guidelines. As a result, traffic fatalities have decreased, with drunk driving deaths down nearly 50 percent and teen driving deaths reduced by 51 percent. In 2014, White was inducted into the Illinois High School & College Driver Education Association Hall of Fame.
Prior to his election as Secretary of State, White served as Cook County Recorder of Deeds – a job to which he was first elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1996. Before that, he served 16 years in the Illinois General Assembly, representing the most culturally, economically and racially diverse district in Illinois.
In 1959, White founded the internationally known Jesse White Tumbling Team to serve as a positive alternative for children residing in and around the Chicago area. Since its inception, more than 17,500 young men and women have performed with the team. White has spent 58 years working as a volunteer with
the team to help kids stay away from gangs, drugs, alcohol and smoking, and to help set at-risk youth on the path to success. The program has received international praise. This year the team will make more than 1,500 performances using seven units, consisting of 225 young men and women. Currently, there are 51 members enrolled in college. In 2014, the Chicago Park District opened the Jesse White Community Center and Field House in honor of White’s lifelong contributions to the community. In addition, a school in Hazel Crest, Illinois, was recently renamed the Jesse C. White Learning Academy, and a Chicago street was designated Jesse White Way in honor of White.
White served our country as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division and as a member of the Army Reserve and Illinois National Guard. He played professional baseball with the Chicago Cubs organization, which was followed by a 33-year career with the Chicago Public Schools as a teacher and administrator.
Jesse White earned his Bachelor of Science from Alabama State College (now Alabama State University) in 1957, where he was a two-sport athlete earning all-conference honors in baseball and basketball. In May 1995, White was inducted into the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame. He was an all-city baseball and basketball player at Chicago’s Waller High School (now Lincoln Park High School) and was inducted into the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in June 1995. In 1999, he was inducted into the Alabama State University Sports Hall of Fame. Born in Alton, Illinois, he now lives on Chicago’s Near North Side. White has two daughters, Glenna and Lorraine, and two grandchildren, Jesse and Susan.
Kristin Bush and Kerri Gefeke
BIO: Kristin Bush joined the U.S. Air Force at the age of 17, leaving home for basic training as soon as she graduated high school. She then attended the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey for a 53-week course in Chinese. As a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force, Kristin spent 6 years on active duty, supporting the National Security Agency with her skills as a Chinese linguist. Kristin earned many awards for her service including a Joint Service Achievement Medal for her 6-month deployment to Naples, Italy in support of NATO and the Global War on Terror.
Kerri Gefeke previously spent 4 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy; as a Petty Officer Second Class, she served as a Korean linguist in Hawaii after also attending the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey. Kerri has now served in the Illinois Army National Guard for 5 years and is currently assigned as the Plans Officer for the 44th Chemical Battalion in Bloomington, Illinois. She could not be in attendance that evening as she is also the Acting Commander of the 44th Chemical Battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company and was training with her unit. First Lieutenant Gefeke says the best part of her job is mentoring and supporting her Soldiers, enabling them to be more successful in and out of uniform.
Notably on Pride Night, Kristin and Kerri met while serving in the Air Force and Navy under the now-revoked Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, but are proud that Kerri is now serving openly in the Illinois Army National Guard with honor and the support of her wife Kristin.
BIO: Stephen Joseph served in the U.S. Navy (Active Duty) from 1984 – 2004 where he attained the rank of Aviation Boatswain Mate (Handler) First Class Petty Officer. He served a total of 20 years and 2 months where he made five major deployments on different ships including deployment to the Persian Gulf on three separate occasions. His first tour to the Gulf was for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. His first deployment was part of El Dorado Canyon on April 15, 1986.
James E. Browne
BIO: James E. Browne grew up on Chicago’s South side in the Ashburn neighborhood the oldest of 7 children. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him, he joined the United States Army in 1988 and shortly thereafter was assigned to the 18th Military Police Brigade in Germany during the cold war.
In 1990 James E. Browne would deployed, in defense of freedom, yet again- this time to Saudi Arabia as a Specialist assigned to 3rd Armored Division in support of Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm.
Following his Honorable Discharge from the US Army, James Browne returned to Chicago, attended Moraine Valley College, then DePaul University; he decided to continue his career of serving the public and joined the Chicago Police Department in 1997.
As a member of CPD Detective Browne has worked in Englewood, Chicago Lawn and Morgan Park District as both a Patrol Officer, and Gang Tactical Officer. In January 2002, he is currently assigned to work violent crimes in Area 2, which encompasses most of Chicago’s far south side.
As a Chicago Police Department Detective, Jame Browne served as an original member of the Internet Crimes Against Children’s Task Force in Cook County. Today, Detective Browne serves the people of the City’s near south side and west side as a Cold Case Homicide Detective.
He is a recipient of multiple Department commendations in his career, and was honored with a Mayoral Resolution for his work with a team that conducted an in depth investigation resulting in the arrest and conviction of a child predator.
For THIRTY years James E. Browne has put his life on the line each and every day serving and protecting the public. He has gone from the US Army and battlefields of Iraq to working some of the City’s most difficult cold case homicides.
BIO: Matt enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard on October 10, 2009. He served for a total of eight years as part of the 1133rd Transportation Company out of Iowa City, Iowa. As part of this unit, Matt ran support missions annually to aid other units with their missions stateside. These missions included the the Golden Coyote mission in 2011 and flood relief for the Missouri River on the western Iowa border.
BIO: Bruce B. Alexander, originally from Forsyth, GA retired from the United States Air force after 21 years and 5 months of service at the rank of Master Sergeant from Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, IL.
He began his military service on March 7, 1990 in Atlanta, GA. As a Material Management Craftsman (Logistics), he served in various staff positions and locations throughout his career with his culminating assignment being with the 436th Supply Chain Operations Squadron (Mission Training Center). Bruce also deployed in support of the Global War on Terror, serving 15 months in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Bruce’s Military Education includes: Airman Leadership School, Non-Commissioned Officer Academy, Supply Management Craftsman Course, Air Force Training Course, KC-135 Navigator Initial Qualification Course and more. His Awards and Decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with 1 oak leaf, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Air Force Good Conduct Medal with 7 oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal with 1 service star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Air Force Overseas Ribbon Long with 1 oak leaf cluster; Air Force Longevity Service with 4 oak leaf clusters, United States Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon with 1 oak leaf cluster and Air Force Training Ribbon.
Bruce is currently employed at the Social Security administration where he currently provides outstanding public services to his community while residing in Chicago with his wife and daughter.
BIO: Dana Austin served eight and a half years in the United States Navy as an Aviation Ordananceman. She was a Desert Storm Veteran where she supplied small arms to Navy SEAL Teams and Marine FAST companies and Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal detachments. Currently, she is employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs where she continues to help AMERICA’S HEROES as a Veterans Service Representative.
BIO: Amber was commissioned in 2012 into the U.S. Army Reserve as an Adjutant General Corps officer after obtaining her Engineering Degree. From there she was stationed in various locations including Fort Lewis in Washington. As her career progressed, she became in command of a Human Resources company. During her time in the service, she received various accomodations and awards. These included the Army Achievement Medal and the National Defense and Army Service Ribbons!
Oscar Lawton Wilkerson Jr.
BIO: The Legendary Tuskegee Airmen of WWII were a group of proud fearless accomplished determined patriotic African-American fighter and bomber military pilots who fought in World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of what, at the time was known as the United States Army Air Forces. The tough as nails talented Tuskegee Airmen played what would become a significant role in the skies leading the Allies to victory against Nazi Germany.
O. Lawton Wilkerson – known to all as Wilk – was born February 9, 1926 in Chicago Heights. He graduated from Bloom Township High School in 1944 and joined the Army Air Force. Wilk moved to Tuskegee Alabama for training and was assigned to the 617th Bombardment Squadron. He became 2nd Lieutenant and earned his wings in 1946. — At age 19 … Oscar Lawton Wilkerson was among the first blacks to fly a B-25 bomber as a Tuskegee Airman. Following his military service, Wilk attended New York University to study photography, then Midwest Broadcasting School and graduated in 1960. He worked as a DJ for WBEE-AM and was known as “Weekend Wilkie,” and hosted his own radio show, Wilk’s World. Later, he worked for the radio station WMAQ (AM) until his retirement.
O. Lawton Wilkerson, legendary Tuskeegee Airman spent his retirement years volunteering for the Chicago “DODO” Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, helping minority and at-risk youth learn to fly, for free, through the “Young Eagles” program.
Julian Johnson, Veronica Potter, Le’Arthur Dunlap, Capt. Ray Leung
Capt. Ray Leung (Escort for the Night)
Capt. Leung is a decorated Naval Aviator whose decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal, Navy Marine Corp Commendation Medal – four awards with a combat V, Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medal and various unit and campaign awards. Capt. Leung also has 2300 hours and 400 arrested landing in the E-2C Hawkeye. Capt. Leung, welcome to Chicago and thank you for your extraordinary, and ongoing, service to our country.
In the summer of 1943, 19 year old Julian Johnson entered the service and was assigned to the US Army’s Costal Artillery Corps. Julian earned a pair of stripes and the rank of Corporal at Camp Stewart Anti-Aircraft Training Center and longed to be an officer — but racial discrimination made that chance slim at best. He was undeterred. And unstoppable. Julian applied to the Air Corps Cadet School, and was accepted.In 1944, with the rank of Corporal, he was transferred from Kessler Army Air Field in Biloxi, Mississippi to the Tuskegee Institute for pre-flight training. Shortly after that, Corporal Julian Johnson was accepted into the Bombardier training program. An aviator — and a legend — was born.Julian Johnson continued to soar. He attended flexible Gunnery School training at Tyndall Army Air Force Field School in Panama City, Florida and was awarded Aerial Gunner Wings. His next stop Midland Army Air Field in Texas where he became part of the Bombardier Class of 45-48. In support of his country, the war effort and freedom – Julian Johnson accumulated an additional 124 flying hours as an original Tuskegee Airman.
After the war, Julian Johnson’s star would continue to shine brightly. He went on to have a brilliant career as a chemical engineer focusing in electrochemical research at Armor, Dial, Westco Chemical, Soft Sheen Products and RR Donnelly.
In 1943 The US Marine Corps created the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. Not quite a year later, 19 year old High Graduate named Veronica Sebstian Potter would enlist – wanting to help her country in the war effort.While she did not know it at the time, Veronica would be part of history — she would be one of only 20,000 women Marines to serve in World War II. These women trail-blazers would serve their country in over 225 different specialties, filling 85 percent of the enlisted jobs at Marine Corp HQ and comprising a little over half of the permanent personnel at major Marine Corps posts.Women who enlisted came to be viewed not just as a source of skills, but as a valuable source of high-quality personnel needed to meet manpower requirements for the massive military buildup that would be a major turning point in the war.
Veronica successfully completed boot camp at Camp Lejeune then shipped off to Parris Island to help support the war effort in a number of different- and vital – capacities. The Marine Corp would then transfer Veronica to the Pentagon … where she remained until her discharge at the end of the war in 1946.
After her military service, Veronica attended Carnegie Mellon University and then taught art in college. With a sparkle, passion and zest for life that seems to be her trademark, she pursued her love of dancing in a Flamenco Dance Group – until just recently.
We asked Veronica how she felt about serving in WWII, and here is what she had to say – “to this day, more than 75 years later I am so proud to say that I was a United States Marine.”
In April 1942, the Navy agreed to enlist Black sailors. Le’Arthur Dunlap, an member of his high schools ROTC program, ran to enlisted so that he could “protect his country.” In June and July of 1942, the very first groups of Black sailors arrived at the Great Lakes Naval Training Stations, Camp Robert Smalls – Le’Arthur Dunlap would be among them. He would hold the distinction of being one of the first black sailors to train at Naval Station Great Lakes. Following boot camp, Le Arthur Dunlap was the honor graduate of his electrician’s mate (EM) class in Hampton, Virginia; and was the first black EM and the first black Sailor to earn a regular Navy rating other than a steward position. Le’Arthur would served aboard minesweeper USS Egret during the war. After World War II, Dunlap, who became fluent in both French and German, worked as a civilian with the State Department, assisting the American embassy with post war reconstruction efforts in Germany.Le’Arthur Dunlap was not finished serving his country – after leaving Germany, he re-enlisted this time, in the U.S. Army and eventually achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 — the highest CWO rank at that time.Today, he serves as the President of the Black WWII Navy Veteran’s of Lake County.
Col. Leslie A. Maher
BIO: Col. Leslie A. Maher is the Commander, 375th Air Mobility Wing, Scott Air Force Base, Ill. She leads more than 3,100 personnel, oversees assets totaling more than $4 billion, and controls an annual budget exceeding $130 million.
The 375th AMW mission is to provide aeromedical evacuation for patients, and operational support airlift for high priority passengers and cargo, and installation support to 31 mission partners including United States Transportation Command, Air Mobility Command, and the Eighteenth Air Force, totaling almost 13,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve, Department of Defense civilians, and contract personnel making Scott a Total Force installation.
The wing operates 12 C-21 aircraft, and is an Associate Partner for C-40 airlift missions with the Reserve’s 932d Airlift Wing, and KC-135 refueling missions with the Illinois Air National Guard’s 126th Air Refueling Wing.
Colonel Maher, a native of Gregory, South Dakota, enlisted in the Air Force in 1987. After her enlistment ended, she attended Wichita State University and joined the 184th Fighter Wing, Kansas Air National Guard. Upon completion of her degree, Colonel Maher was commissioned through the Officer Training School, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and reported to NAS Pensacola, Florida and Randolph AFB, Texas for Joint Undergraduate Navigator Training. She earned her wings in 1997, and has participated in numerous operations including Operations Southern Watch, Allied Force, Noble Eagle, Desert Fox, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and the relief efforts in support of JTF-Matthew. She is a Master Navigator with more than 1,900 hours in the T-43, T-34C, and the KC-135R/T. Prior to her current position, the Colonel was the Chief, Special Access Programs Division, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB Illinois.
For her service she has been recognized with major awards and merits such as the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (3 oak leaf clusters) , Air Medal (oak leaf cluster), Aerial Combat, Support Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal (3 oak leaf clusters) , Airlift/Tanker Association Young Leadership Award
CAPT Paul B Roach MC (FS/FMF) USN
BIO: Paul Roach graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.A. in English in 1990, and from Rush Medical College, Chicago, in 1994 (4-year HPSP scholarship). In 1994-95 he Interned in Surgery at Oakland Naval Hospital / University of California, Davis-East Bay surgical program, and then attended Naval Flight Surgery school in Pensacola, Florida. He served his first operational tour as a Flight Surgeon in Okinawa, Japan, with HMM-265, the Air Combat Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), and his second at Naval Air Station Washington, in Washington DC.
His residency in General Surgery was at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (Full-Time Outservice), graduating in 2003; his chief resident year he was the surgical program’s administrative chief resident. He then served at Naval Hospital, Sigonella, Sicily, Italy, for two years, and was Section Chief of General Surgery.
In 2008 he completed a three-year fellowship in Complex Surgical Oncology at the University of Chicago, and then served a tour as a staff surgical oncologist at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth; he deployed from there to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, with the 1st Medical Battalion, serving at Camps Dwyer and Bastion during the Marjah offensive of 2009-2010.
In August, 2010 he transferred to Lovell Federal Health Care Center, in North Chicago, IL, the first fully integrated DoD-VA facility in the nation, as General and Oncologic Surgeon. He served as Section Chief of General Surgery for three years, and as Chief of Surgery (i.e. Director of Surgical Services) for a total of two years. He initiated in 2013 (and has since developed) a clinical partnership between Navy Medicine and the Cook County Trauma Center; he deployed as a combat surgeon to the Role III Medical Center in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2014; he’s authored two white papers for Navy Medicine (the Surgeon General’s Assessment Cell-3 on Talent Management; the Surgeon General’s Readiness R3I4 report on Competency and Readiness); he is an active member of the newly-formed Surgeon General’s Trauma Clinical Community.
Warfare devices earned include Flight Surgery and Fleet Marine Force. Awards include Navy Commendation Medal (x3), Navy Achievement Medal (x2), Presidential Unit commendation, Naval Unit commendation, Overseas Service ribbon, National Defense Ribbon, Operational Enduring Freedom ribbon (x2), Global War on Terrorism, Sea Service ribbon, Rifle Expert and Pistol Expert ribbons. He’s married for 25 years to his wife Megan; they have three children, Helen, Maeve, and Fiona. He has authored one novel, “The End,” and one nonfiction memoir, “Citizen-Surgeon.”
Colonel (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired).
* President and CEO, TAWANI Enterprises
* Founder and President, Pritzker Military Foundation
* Founder and President, TAWANI Foundation
* Founder and Chair, Pritzker Military Museum and Library
Jennifer Pritzker is a retired Lt. Col. of the United States Army and an honorary Col. in the Illinois Army National Guard. Pritzker is a respected historian, businesswoman, developer, philanthropist and President and CEO of TAWANI Enterprises.
TAWANI Enterprises brings an entrepreneurial outlook to the development, management and preservation of carefully selected real estate properties. Through a dynamic portfolio of public-facing brands, TAWANI Enterprises builds and restores unique spaces for people to visit, live, work and learn, and undertakes and supports projects that forge healthier, stronger communities.
Pritzker Military Museum & Library Pritzker is Founder and Chair of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library (PMML). Located in downtown Chicago, the PMML is a nonprofit, nonpartisan information center where citizens and soldiers come together to learn about military history and affairs. The Museum & Library is open to the public and features an extensive collection of books, programs, artifacts, and rotating exhibits covering many eras and branches of the military. Programs include a lending library, the archives, recorded TV shows, podcasts and oral histories, and museum exhibits.
Pritzker Military Foundation Pritzker is President and Founder of the Pritzker Military Foundation. The foundation supports organizations that preserve military history and provide essential resources to active military, veterans and families of service members in all branches of the United States Armed Forces. Since its inception in 2017, the Foundation has given more than $4.2 million and has pledged another $7 million in commitments through 2021.
Pritzker’s military career began with the enlistment in the United States Army in 1974 and subsequent assignment to 1st Squadron 17th Cavalry Regiment (Air) 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina while serving in the ranks of Private through
Sergeant. Following commissioning as an Infantry 2nd lieutenant in 1979, Pritzker served on active duty with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and VII Corps at Kelly Barracks, Germany until her release from active duty in 1985. Subsequent assignments included three tours of duty in the individual Ready Reserve for 56 days in 1985 and service in the Illinois Army National Guard between 1986 and 2001. Assignments in the National Guard included Commander, C Company, 1st Battalion 131st Infantry Regiment, Battalion S2 (Intelligence Officer), Assistant Brigade Intelligence Officer and Chemical Officer 33rd Separate Infantry Brigade, Chicago, Illinois. Historian State Area Command, STARC, Springfield, Illinois; Host Area Support Officer, 33rd Area Support Group, Chicago, Illinois; and Commander, 38th Rear Operation Center, 38th Infantry Division, Chicago Illinois.
Military awards include: Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Service Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, National Defense Service Medal with Star, Antarctic Service Medal, Outstanding Military Volunteer Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with 20 year Device, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon, State of Louisiana Legion of Merit, State of Illinois Long and Honorable Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, State of Illinois Military Attendance Ribbon with Numeral 6, the U.S. Army Parachute Badge and Air Assault Badge, and Parachute Badges of Israel, Russia, Canada, Holland, United Kingdom and Poland. Upon retirement from the Illinois National Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel, Pritzker was promoted to the Honorary Rank of Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard in March 2001.