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OXI Courage and Service Awards in Washington DC Showcase Modern Day Heroes
The 9th Annual Washington Oxi Day Foundation Courage and Service Awards again celebrated OXI courage, past and present, before top US policymakers and thought leaders at inspiring events on October 24 in Washington, DC. From honoring Greek-American veterans of WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War, such as John Calamos at the National World War II Memorial, to modern David vs. Goliath fighters for freedom and democracy, in the spirit of the Greeks during WWII, at the US Institute of Peace, the spirit of Oxi Day was on full display.
On October 28, 1940, the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, delivered a 3 a.m. ultimatum to Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas, demanding that Axis forces freely enter Greece or face war. In response, the Greek Prime Minister declared “Oxi!” (No!) – refusing to fold to the fascist ruler, marking Greece’s entry into World War II. As Italian troops began to invade, Greek citizens took to the streets chanting “Oxi!” in honor of Prime Minister Metaxas’ refusal to relent to fascism.
The prestigious Oxi Courage Award was presented to TIME Magazine 2018 Persons of the Year: journalist and critic of the Philippines’ government Maria Ressa and posthumously to journalist and critic of Saudi Arabia’s government Jamal Khashoggi. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member, Senator Bob Menenedez, introduced Khashoggi and philanthropist Danialle Karmanos introduced Ressa.
Chairman of the National Holocaust Museum Board and 2018 recipient of the Metropolitan Chrysostomos Award, Howard Lorber, presented the 2019 Award to the Greek Jews martyred in an Auschwitz revolt on the 75th anniversary of their resistance. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Jack Jacobs accepted this award on their behalf.
Earlier in the day, at the National World War II Memorial, the Oxi Day Foundation honored three remarkable Greek-American veterans.
Vasilios S. Haseotes was honored with the Oxi Service Award for his service in World War I. He was introduced by Sister Therese Antone and the award was accepted by his great-grandson Harry Murphy.
Alex G. Spanos was honored posthumously with the Oxi Service Award for his service in World War II. He was introduced by former Congressman Darrell Issa and the Award was accepted by his grandsons Phillip Ruhl and Michael Spanos.
John P. Calamos, Sr. received the 2019 Michael Jaharis Service Award, for his service in the Vietnam War and continued service to the Greek-American community. He was introduced by Jaharis Family Foundation Executive Director Peggy Sotirhos Nicholson and Calamos himself received the award.
Speaking to NEO, Mr. Calamos stated: “With the WWII Memorial serving as the backdrop, it truly was an extraordinary day—and very humbling to finally receive recognition for my service. As many fellow Vietnam Veterans know, despite the sacrifices we made, we were not well received in the years immediately following the war.”
Special remarks were given at both the Courage Awards and the Service Awards by Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America Elpidophoros.
The keynote address at the Oxi Service Awards was given by the highest-ranking Greek-American in the US Military, Lieutenant General Andrew Poppas.
Ohi Day or Oxi Day (Greek: Eπέτειος του Όχι, “Anniversary of the No”) is celebrated throughout Greece, Cyprus and the Greek communities around the world on 28 October each year. Ohi Day commemorates the rejection by Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 October 1940, the Hellenic counterattack against the invading Italian forces at the mountains of Pindos during the Greco-Italian War and the Greek Resistance during the horrendous Axis occupation.
This ultimatum, which was presented to Metaxas by the Italian Ambassador to Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, shortly after 03:00 am on 28 October 1940, who had just come from a party in the Italian embassy in Athens, demanded Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified “strategic locations” or otherwise face war. It was allegedly answered with a single, laconic word: όχι (No!). However, his actual reply was in French “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (so this is war!).
In response to Metaxas’s refusal, Italian troops stationed in Albania, then an Italian protectorate, attacked the Greek border at 05:30 am—the beginning of Greece’s participation in World War II.
On the morning of 28 October, the Greek population took to the streets, irrespective of political affiliation, shouting ‘ohi’. From 1942, it was celebrated as Ohi Day, first mostly among the members of the resistance and after the war by all the Greeks.
During the war, 28 October was commemorated yearly by Greek communities around the world and in Greece and Cyprus, and after World War II it became a public holiday in Greece and Cyprus. The events of 1940 are commemorated every year with military and student parades. On every anniversary, most public buildings and residences are decorated with national flags. Schools and all places of work are closed.