This month, Independence Day, also known as the Fourth of July, is a celebrated federal holiday in the United States. In honor of the occasion, we salute these five Greek Americans who have served our country.
Admiral James G. Stavridis: James G. Stavridis was born in West Palm Beach, Florida. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1976, he rose through the ranks as a naval officer, serving for over three decades. His many distinguished appointments include serving as the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO from 2009 to 2013. He also led the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, and was in charge of military operations through Latin America from 2006 to 2009. Over the course of his career, he served as Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense and, from 2001 to 2002, he was the first commander of the Navy’s “Deep Blue” strategic and tactical think tank after the 9/11 Pentagon attacks. In addition to his military service, he has also earned advanced degrees including a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy and a Ph.D. in International Relations. He holds various decorations and awards, including two awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and five awards of the Legion of Merit. After 37 years of service, he retired from active duty in 2013 and became the dean of The Fletcher School of Law at Tufts University. He has written several books, including his memoir The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO, and he regularly appears in the media as a commentator on foreign policy and security issues.
Captain Karen A. Tsiantas: Karen A. Tsiantas was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts. She enrolled in the college of Holy Cross, a Jesuit school that worked in conjunction with the Navy to train officers. She received a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship from the Navy to attend the school, as reported by greekamericangirl.com in a 2015 interview. She has enjoyed a long celebrated career that has included stints in Alaska, Hawaii, Okinawa, and the South Pacific. She is a graduate of both the Naval War College where she received a Master’s Degree in National Security and the Joint Forces Staff College. A trailblazer, she was a liaison officer on the carrier USS RANGER during an anti-submarine exercise “before women were officially assigned onboard combatant ships.” As a mentor to Navy personnel and civilians, she worked at anti-submarine surveillance headquarters and naval stations. Her leadership was also tapped for the operational planning in the Pacific. From 2008-2013, she worked for the U.S. Navy ensuring outstanding quality of life services to sailors and their families from Maine to North Carolina, as noted in her Linkedin profile. Since 2016, she performs duties on an ad hoc basis where needed for Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), “accomplishing a wide variety of assignments concerning the effectiveness and efficiencies of programs and operations,” among other important duties.
Alek Skarlatos: Aleksander Reed Skarlatos was born in Castro Valley, California. He became friends with Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler while attending Freedom Christian School in Fair Oaks, CA. He joined the Oregon Army National Guard in 2012 and was deployed to Afghanistan for nine months during 2014-15. In August 2015, Skarlatos met up with his buddies for a three-week European vacation when they were Paris-bound by train from Amsterdam via Brussels. While on board, they encountered a gunman and became international heroes after incapacitating him and securing the safety of the passengers and crew. For his role in the Thalys train attack, Skarlatos was awarded the United States Army Solder’s Medal from U.S. President Barack Obama, the highest medal awarded to Army personnel for actions not taken in combat. He also received France’s highest decoration, the Legion of Honour, from French president Francois Hollande as well as the bravery medal of Arras, France. Since then, Skarlatos competed on season 21 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars with professional dancer Linsday Arnold, finishing in third place, and re-enacted the train encounter in the movie “The 15:17 to Paris,” which was directed by Clint Eastwood. He has also been touring the country for public speaking engagements. On May 15, 2018, Oregon’s The News-Review reported that Skarlatos, 25, announced his candidacy to become a Douglas County commissioner.
Barbara Spyridon Pope: Barbara Spyridon Pope was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) under President George H.W. Bush and later as Assistant Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 1989 to 1993. In 1991 when the Tailhook scandal broke, she became concerned that the United States Department of the Navy was not conducting a proper investigation into allegations that their personnel had sexually harassed women at the Tailhook Association meeting in Las Vegas, NV. Having experienced sexist remarks firsthand from the officer heading the investigation, she responded to his final report which found no senior Navy officials baring any responsibility for what had occurred. She then went to the U.S. Secretary of the Navy and said she would resign if they did not do another report, looking at what needed to be done regarding accountability and the larger issues. The Secretary agreed and a further investigation was conducted resulting in the resignation of two officers. She later chaired an ad hoc committee to study the role of women in the military which played a part in the 1993 order ending the ban against female combat pilots and to ask Congress to allow women to serve on American Navy ships. She next became the Assistant Secretary for State Civil Rights under U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell who tasked her with moving to combat discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces. In 1995 a television movie, She Stood Alone: The Tailhook Scandal, featuring Spyridon Pope as played by actress Bess Armstrong.
William G. Pagonis: Retired three-star U.S. Army Lieutenant General William G. Pagonis is a native of Charleroi, Pennsylvania. He served in the U.S. Army for 29 years (1964-1993). Widely recognized for his logistical achievements, particularly during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Pagonis served as General Schwarzkopf’s logistics commander. He functioned as the single point of contact responsible for all logistics for the Gulf War. Military awards and decorations include The Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with “V” device, three Air Medals, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, King Abdul Aziz Zad Class Medal (Saudi Arabia), Merit and Honor Medal (Greece), and the Gold Cross of Honor of the Federal Armed Services (Germany), among many others. An author and speaker, Pagonis’ has also held several executive and CEO positions with such companies as Sears Roebuck & Co., Epiphany, and Railamerica, Inc., to name a few.
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