WASHINGTON, DC—A proud tradition continued in a steady rain when members of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the leading association for the nation’s three million American citizens of Greek heritage, and Philhellenes, paid their respects on behalf of the American Hellenic community to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, democracy, and liberty at Arlington National Cemetery.
Supreme President Andrew Zachariades, accompanied by Colonel Nicholas P. Vamvakias (U.S. Army ret.), past supreme treasurer; Captain Demosthenes N. Kolaras (U.S. Navy ret.), former AHEPA executive director; and Colonel Ronald B. Baldinger (U.S. Air Force ret.), member, AHEPA Chapter 542, Sterling, Va., laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery, on behalf of a grateful American Hellenic community, May 22, 2017. An Honor Guard Specialist from 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) assisted them. Since 1924 Ahepans have returned annually to Arlington to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“This was one of the most powerfully moving experiences of my life,” Zachariades said. “We honored the sacrifices of those throughout our nation’s history, who paid the ultimate price, and we expressed—in a small yet significant way—our community’s gratitude to our nation’s fallen. It was also especially meaningful to perform this ceremony at this time in our nation’s history when our brave men and women continue to be in harm’s way."
He added, "We witnessed, and were inspired by, the dedication to duty of the 3rd Regiment in safeguarding the honor of the Tomb no matter how severe the elements become.”
Estimated 660 Gravesites Memorialized
More than 100 AHEPA family members from the mid-Atlantic Region gathered to memorialize those identified as Greek Americans or Greek Orthodox who are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. According to organizers, there are an estimated 660 gravesites at which AHEPA and Daughters of Penelope members present a wreath and pause in remembrance of those who perished for our nation. This solemn ceremony has been performed annually since 1949.
"I commend the AHEPA family of the metro Washington, DC area for its
carefully detailed effort to honor properly the memory of the brave souls of our community who sacrificed for our freedom," Supreme Zachariades, who participated along with Supreme Counselor George Horiates, said. "It was an honor to join with them at this moving event."
Among the AHEPA chapters participating were: AHEPA Chapter 31, Washington, DC, which began the annual tradition in 1949; AHEPA Chapter 383, Silver Spring, Md.; Col. Peter N. Derzis Chapter 438, and AHEPA Molon Labe Chapter 542, Sterling, Va.
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Founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia, on the principles that undergirded its fight for civil rights and against discrimination, bigotry, and hatred felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, and Europe.
AHEPA's mission is to promote the ancient Greek ideals of Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence through community service and volunteerism.
For more information, please visit www.ahepa.org.