by Hellenic NATIONAL DEFENSE GENERAL Staff at the Greek Embassy ON NOVEMBER 19, 2007
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Pictured above: Andrew G. Saffas, Sculptor
Lt. General Konstantinos Korkas, Honorary Commander, Hellenic Army Colonel Ilias Leontaris, Hellenic Defense Attache
The Hellenic National Defense General Staff will honor the Greek-American veterans of United States commando units, who served behind enemy lines and fought alongside Hellenic Armed Forces in occupied Greece during World War II, in a special ceremony at the Greek Embassy on November 19 on the occasion of the Greek Armed Forces Day.
Click the link to read the entire article in the Hellenic News of America
Impressions of the event by Andrew G.Saffas:
The trip to Washington D.C. was exciting and gratifying; travel, hotel and food accommodations were superb, as was the congenial hospitality of our hosts, H.E. the Ambassador of Greece and Mrs. Alexandros Mallias, and the Defense Attache Colonel and Mrs. Ilias Leontaris of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff.
Veterans, family members and other honorees, about 80 in all, attended the Sunday night Dinner at the Capitol Hilton Hotel. Defense Attache, Colonel Leontaris, introduced a few speakers. General Konstantinos Korkas and Andrew S. Mousalimas spoke eloquently on behalf of all the veterans; I spoke last, emphasizing the fact that the bronze soldier in Athens speaks, not only for me, but more importantly, for all the men whose names are inscribed on the face of the monument, attesting to the significant contribution they made to the liberation of Greece and to the Allied Victory in Europe during WW II.
After the dinner I met the surviving veterans present, and we bonded immediately. While they were in a huddle exchanging war stories I broke in on their conversation, exclaiming "PSEMATA! LIES! " I told them my “Intelligence” said all they did was sit on a mountain-side all day long, drink ouzo, play backgammon, feast on souvlakia, and at night, were off to the bouzoukia; they howled with laughter. One of them asked me where I got my "Intelligence.” I responded, “The same place Bush gets his”...more laughter; they are great bunch of guys.
Monday we had lunch at a local Greek restaurant, where most everyone had the wonderful "Japanese" dish, mou-SA-ka~! Monday evening, by invitation from H.E. Ambassador Alexandros Mallias, we all went to the Greek Embassy (very beautifully designed with marble and wood, and many urns of flowers) for the Banquet and Awards Ceremony. There was a high military presence there, not only from the Greek Military but from the USA, Canada and other foreign countries. Estimated attendance was over 450 persons, who formed a sea of humanity circulating between three rooms. The typical Greek food was delicious and abundant. I shot pictures continuously, to capture as much of the ceremonies and people as possible, until those of us being honored were called upon to take our place on the rotunda.
Colonel Ilias Leontaris, Brigadier General Ilias Alevitsovitis and H.E. Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias presented each Greek-US Operational Group Veteran and each of the other honorees, including me, a wood and brass plaque of the National Defense General Staff bearing the inscription “Peak of Excellence”. In addition, the 29th U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, Gordon England, handed each of us a medallion from the U.S.A. Secretary of Defense.
It was truly gratifying to see the veterans of the Greek-US Operational Group receive well-deserved awards, and recognition, which was long overdue.
Andrew G. Saffas, Sculptor
Friday, November 23, 2007