Medals Nominating board

Robin Hutton

Mari Lou Livingood

Mari Lou Livingood

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 Robin has spent all of her adult life working in major event productions and the motion picture business as a writer and producer. She is the author of the NY Times bestseller, Sgt Reckless: America’s War Horse, and War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of World War II. She’s President of Angels Without Wings, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit California corporation, whose DBA The Sgt. Reckless Memorial Fund has dedicated five national monuments to this great Korean War horse hero, Sgt. Reckless.  The Animals in War & Peace Medal Ceremony and a museum to honor these heroic animals is her latest passion.

Mari Lou Livingood

Mari Lou Livingood

Mari Lou Livingood

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 Mari Lou Livingood is the President of the Livingood Group, LLC in Washington, DC. The Livingood Group specializes in securing national partners with attention to conservation, government relations and animal rights and recognition. For over 25 years, Mari Lou has worked with non-profit organizations to advance their legislative and philanthropic goals in the Washington, DC region. 

Dr. Rich Vargus

Mari Lou Livingood

Dr. Rich Vargus

Dr. Vargus has served with honor and distinction in a military and law enforcement career that has s

 Dr. Vargus has served with honor and distinction in a military and law enforcement career that has spanned over 45 years. Most notably with the fledgling joint terrorist task force immediately following the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center. 


He returned to active duty in 2005, last serving as the chief of law enforcement for US Central Command where he established and executed joint service and coalition canine operations.


Dr Vargus returned to retired status in 2012, assuming the duties of the Army Military Working Dog program manager, and in 2018 he was selected to lead the DOD program.

Ron Aiello

Chris Willingham

Dr. Rich Vargus

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  Ronald L. Aiello served in the United States Marine Corps from 1964 to 1970. During this period Ron had the honor of serving with the First Marine Scout Dog Platoon.


He and his dog Stormy were one of the first thirty Marine Scout Dog Teams to be deployed to Vietnam in early 1966 and were involved in many operations leading Marine units in search and destroy missions.


In the year 2000, Ron and four other Vietnam Veteran dog handlers formed The United States War Dogs Association, Inc., a nonprofit organization of former and current US military dog handlers and supporting members. The United States War Dogs Association is committed to promoting the long history of the military service dogs, establishing permanent war dog memorials, and educating the public about the invaluable service of these Military Working Dogs to our country.


In 2006, The United States War Dogs Association established the first official State War Dog Memorial in the United States located at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel, New Jersey.


In 2014, the United States War Dogs Association established several free medical programs for Retired Military Working Dogs, such as free prescription drugs and emergency medical care. 


Ron has been a consultant for numerous film producers, screenwriters, book authors, and national and local newspapers. His expertise in the world of Military Working Dogs and their training makes him in high demand.

Chris Willingham

Chris Willingham

Chris Willingham

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Chris Willingham served in the United States Marine Corps from January 1999 to January 2019. Chris dedicated the majority of his military career to the Military Working Dog (MWD) program. Throughout his 20 year career, he served as a MWD handler, trainer, instructor and supervisor. Chris deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Spartan Shield.


Of note, Chris had the privilege of serving 5 years with specialized search dog Lucca K458 whose story of service and sacrifice was the topic of New York Times bestselling book Top Dog.  Chris continues to be an ambassador to the MWD Program.  Chris is regarded as a MWD subject matter expert and has given numerous presentations and interviews to various media outlets (Today Show, Fox and Friends, 700 Club, Animal Planet, Parade Magazine, etc.). 

Medals Advisory Committee

Karen Storms

Frank Blazich

Karen Storms

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Board Member, Angels Without Wings, Inc.


The journey continues for college besties, Karen and Robin. From roommates, cheerleaders, and sorority sisters at Ithaca College; to multiple trips to England for acceptance of the Dickin Medals for "Sgt. Reckless" and “Chips" and research for Robin's book, "War Animals”; to dedications of the Sgt. Reckless monuments throughout the United States; their mission continues with the Animal Bravery Awards.

Karen is a successful Los Angeles Acting coach whose actors can be found in lead roles in feature films, commercials, and theater on Broadway. Her dedicated and respected work with actors earned her a nomination by her peers to receive the Florida Film Legends Award.

While attending the Master's Program at Rollins College, Karen was inducted into Kappa Delta Pi, an International Honor Society in Education by her Professors. It recognizes outstanding contributions to education.

Karen teaches actors unique techniques and tools necessary for the actor to create believable, natural, and real characters, making them stronger and more confident in their craft, resulting in memorable performances.

Donna Fleece

Frank Blazich

Karen Storms

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Board Member, Angels Without Wings, Inc.


Donna Fleece is a licensed school psychologist and has worked in public schools and private practice. She has been active in her state professional organization and she has served on the Board of Directors and Executive Board of Directors of various non-profit organizations in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her extensive involvement in the community earned her an appointment by the mayor to the St. Petersburg Arts Advisory Committee where she served to develop the city’s cultural plan and judge grant applications.  


Donna currently serves on the Board of Directors of Angels Without Wings, Inc., a non-profit organization raising funds for monuments to Sgt Reckless and other heroic war animals, as well as plans for the new International War Animals Museum. 

Frank Blazich

Frank Blazich

Frank Blazich

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Curator of Military History

Division of Political and Military History

National Museum of American History

Smithsonian Institution


A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Frank Blazich, Jr. specializes in the American military experience in the twentieth century. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he holds a doctorate in modern American history from The Ohio State University (2013). Following his doctoral studies, Blazich served as the historian at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, California before moving to Washington, D.C. to serve as a historian in the History and Archives Division of Naval History and Heritage Command. From June to December 2016, Blazich served as the historian on Task Force Netted Navy working for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.


In January 2017, he assumed his current position as curator of modern military history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. His first edited book, Bataan Survivor: A POW’s Account of Japanese Captivity in World War II, was published by the University of Missouri Press in February 2017. He most recent book project, “An Honorable Place in American Air Power” Civil Air Patrol Coastal Patrol Operations, 1943-1943, is slated for publication by Air University Press in late 2020/early 2021. 


Additionally, he has published articles, essays, blog posts, book reviews and delivered public talks on numerous topics relating to modern American military history. His work has appeared in the North Carolina Historical Review, The Northern Mariner, the Naval War College Review, Marine Corps History, Air Power History, Smithsonian Magazine Online, War on the Rocks, Volunteer Magazine, the Center for International Maritime History, The Sextant, and Seabee Magazine Online.


He is currently the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for the Society for Military History and the director of the Colonel Louisa S. Morse Center for Civil Air Patrol History. As a colonel in the Civil Air Patrol, Blazichpreviously served as the organization’s national historian from April 2013 to March 2018. In this position he directed the corporation’s entire history program, providing extensive technical assistance for the CAP’s 2014 Congressional Gold Medal effort and the corporation’s 75th anniversary commemoration in 2016. 


He is married to Nicole M. Warburton, formerly of La Cañada, California. They live in Northern Virginia with their son William and three-legged rescue dog, Lord Horatio Nelson. 

Linda Blick

Linda Blick

Frank Blazich

Tails of Hope Foundation, Inc

John Burnam

Linda Blick

John Burnam

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JOHN C. BURNAM is a Vietnam War Veteran who served in the U.S. Army as a combat infantryman and German Shepherd Scout Dog Handler (1966-1968).  John credits his Scout Dog, Clipper as a big reason for his survival on the battlefield. His military service awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Paratrooper.


John is a published author of Dog Tags of Courage (1999), A Soldier’s Best Friend (2008), and Canine Warrior (2014). 


1999-2019, John’s books and war dog stories have been featured in numerous radio and TV interviews.  He was also featured and the technical advisor for several TV documentaries such as War Dogs – America’s Forgotten Heroes, Dogs with Jobs, Hero Dogs, and others. 


John founded the John Burnam Monument Foundation, Inc. which led the effort on Capitol Hill in Washington DC to establish a national monument honoring America’s Military Working Dog Teams of all Wars since WWII. His team’s efforts resulted in congressional legislation signed into public law by President George W. Bush on January 28, 2008. The law appointed John’s organization to design, publically fund, and construct the United States Military Working Dog Teams National Monument.


October 28, 2013, the 3,000 square foot national monument was formally unveiled and dedicated at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, TX where the Department of Defense trains the nation’s military working dogs, and is home of the Holland Military Working Dog Veterinary Hospital, the largest and most advanced in the world.


November 30, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives officially recognized John Burnam by entering his patriotic service into the Congressional Record of the 115th Congress. John was cited for his Vietnam combat service, war medals, and saving lives as an infantryman and scout dog handler. He was further cited for his work as a civilian to establish a national monument for military working dog teams, and for the many years of traveling across the nation to educate the American people about their service and sacrifices.  

Jay Coisman

Linda Blick

John Burnam

Fire Marshal Joe DiGiacomo

Fire Marshal Joe DiGiacomo

Fire Marshal Joe DiGiacomo

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NYC Fire Department

David R Kontny

Fire Marshal Joe DiGiacomo

Fire Marshal Joe DiGiacomo

FBI, Chief of Staff, Joint Program Office for Countering Improvised Explosive Devices

Jocelyn Russell

Fire Marshal Joe DiGiacomo

Jocelyn Russell

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World-Renowned Artist 

Alex Schnell

Alex Schnell

Jocelyn Russell

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MWD Trainer - Lackland Air Force Base 


Alex Schnell served in the United States Marine Corps from March 2012 to October 2019. During his time in service, Alex served as a Military Working Dog (MWD) Handler and a Special Operations Multi-Purpose Canine (MPC) Handler. 


Alex spent the last five years of his service assigned to MPC Bass. Alex and MPC Bass deployed three times together in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Enduring Freedom. Alex continues to work with for Department of Defense to train future MWDs in San Antonio.