The Washington Oxi Day Foundation recently honored three Greek-American veterans for courageously risking their lives in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
The annual Service Awards were presented to Efthemios J. “Tim” Bentas, Stephen Cherpelis and Peter Vergados.
The Oxi Day Service Awards are given each year to a man and to a woman who has taken courageous action that contributed to the promotion or preservation of freedom and democracy. It is inspired by the David vs. Goliath story of Greece’s actions during World War II and the incredible courage displayed by the Greek people.
On October 28th, amid a quintet’s military musical medley against a backdrop of the Memorial’s 50 fountains, an audience of international and American dignitaries witnessed the presentation of the Vasilios S. Haseotes Service Award to WWII veteran Bentas by Zacharie Haseotes Vinios.
The Calamos Service Award was presented to Vietnam veteran Vergados by decorated Vietnam veteran John Calamos.
Calamos said in his speech that although the Vietnam War was controversial in the U.S., a soldier’s duty is to follow orders and fight. “As a soldier, our job is not to reason why, our job is to do or die,” he stated.
He recalled that those who served in Vietnam were not welcomed back home with parades. “Instead of being thanked for their service to our country, they were often criticized …Nothing can take back the pain of these homecomings, but each day gives us an opportunity to revisit history and do better,” Calamos said.
The presentation of the Oxi Service Award to Korean Veteran Cherpelis was by Greek Defense Attaché Col. Panagiotis Vlachopoulos.
Oxi Day Foundation honors veterans, heroes for freedom
The Oxi Day Foundation commemorates the day Greece refused to surrender when faced with a demand to allow Italian forces to occupy the country. It also aims to celebrate modern heroes of freedom and democracy who today display the “Oxi Day Spirit” for freedom and democracy and to improve the perception of Greece today.
Among last year’s honorees was Steve Pisanos, a WWII, Korea and Vietnam War Veteran who posthumously received the inaugural “Calamos Service Award.”
Known as “The Flying Greek,” Pisanos, who was born in Athens in 1919, had a distinguished career serving in all three wars. He served in both the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force during the Second World War and became the first person naturalized as a US citizen while on foreign soil.
He continued his service in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War and retired from service in 1974, having earned thirty-three decorations and distinctions.