2011-12-14 / Features

Gulf War Hero Honored

BY ADAM LOMBARDI


(L. to r.); State Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas look on as honoree, Ret. Lt. General William Pagonis of the U.S Army’s 101st Airborne Division, accepts his recognition by the Chian Federation at the 32nd annual Homeric Awards Ceremony held at the Hellenic American Cultural Center in Astoria. 
Photo Adam Lombardi (L. to r.); State Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas look on as honoree, Ret. Lt. General William Pagonis of the U.S Army’s 101st Airborne Division, accepts his recognition by the Chian Federation at the 32nd annual Homeric Awards Ceremony held at the Hellenic American Cultural Center in Astoria. Photo Adam Lombardi The 32nd annual Homeric Awards Ceremony was held at the Hellenic American Cultural Center by the Chian Federation on December 3 in Astoria. This year’s recipient was a decorated Lt. General of the U.S Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

Pleasant greetings of “Kalispera”, the Greek word for “good evening” and “ti kaneis”, the Greek phrase for “how are you?” filled the air as retired Lt. General William Pagonis shook the hands of a jubilant crowd.

Pagonis was one of the first Americans to land in the Middle East during the first Gulf War. His job was to implement the plan put forth by General Norman Schwarzkopf. Pagonis had to start from scratch.

“Back then, everything was geared to fight the Soviets,” he said.

Pagonis had to design a plan for command on the spot. How would our troops get the supplies they needed?

He had the answer.

“Every war in history was lost due to logistics,” said Pagonis who was given a “blank check to do what I needed to get the job done”.

Pagonis controlled the ships, the aircraft and the ground troops during Operation Desert Shield and Gulf War I. He is a selfdescribed “logistician”. The war was fought with lightning speed and combat operations ceased after a 100-hour victory.

“We had 100,000 soldiers put together as they landed, it was a truly remarkable effort,” according to Pagonis, who was the only recipient of a general’s commission by none other than General “Stormin” Norman Schwarzkopf in the theatre of operation.

The general’s family is from the Greek Island of Chios and he shared a few candid moments from his childhood to which the audience of Greek-Americans could relate.

“I got my first car when my grandmother told my dad to get it the very next day,” the crowd smiled as the story reflected the matriarchy that bonds Greek-American families.

Chian Federation President Evangelos O. Kavvadas has been revitalizing the Homeric award by reaching out to young adults.

“It’s a very strong federation,” said Kavvadas who was pleased to see the turnout of so many young people to support a Greek- American.

After the general retired from the military he worked in the logistics field for Sears Roebuck and made the company profitable in civilian life, going from the war room to the boardroom, according to a report from ABC news. However, the military has never left his blood. Pagonis’ son is on active duty in the army and he admits he is still contacted by high-ranking members of the service who want some sound advice from a combat veteran.

“It’s easy to give advice,” said Pagonis.

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and state Senator Michael Gianaris, both of Greek heritage, commended the Chian Federation for their efforts in honoring Greek-Americans.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. said we are all united by three main values, “God, family and country”.

The Honorable Koula Sophianou, the consul general of the Republic of Cyprus was present as well as the Honorable Aglaia Balta, the consul general of Greece who told the retired Lt. General, “I wish we had more people like you in Greece.”

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, who also announced he will be running for the Senate seat held by Kirstin Gillibrand said, “This greatness comes from our youth and the youth will always be our future.”

For next year, the Chian Federation is considering former President Bill Clinton to join the ranks of past honorees.

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