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Allied Unanimity On Polish Armed Forces Day

NATO Territory Is Inviolable

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Past and Present Alliances Emphasized. Over 150 guests descended upon the Embassy of the Republic of Poland here on the evening of September 9, 2014 for an observance of Polish Armed Forces Day. They included representatives of the U.S. Armed Forces and government, accredited military attachés and diplomats from many countries, Polish army veterans, and the Polonia. The co-hosts were Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf and Commanding Military Attaché Brigadier General Jaroslaw Strozyk.

In Photo: Solidarity of United States, Poland, NATO, Reaffirmed. U.S. Major General Daniel M. Krumrei is pictured above, flanked by Polish Military Attaché Brigadier General Jaroslaw Strozyk (l.) and Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf, addressing the audience on the strong and reciprocal U.S.-Polish and NATO military partnerships, just after he was awarded the prestigious Polish Army Gold Medal.  

After a stirring singing of the national anthems Jeszcze Polska Nie Zginela and the Star Spangled Banner by baritone Josef Surowiec, Ambassador Schnepf delivered his remarks: “Ninety-four years ago, on August 15, 1920 the newly-resurrected Poland defeated Moscow’s invading Bolshevik Red Army at the Battle of Warsaw, which saved Poland and World War I prostrated-western Europe from communist domination.” The heroic military contribution of the 21 volunteer American pilots of the Kosciuszko Squadron during the critical battle was cited.

The ambassador referenced the destabilizing and very dangerous current military events now unfolding in eastern Ukraine being fomented by pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists strongly supported covertly and overtly by Russia. (Earlier this year Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.) He mentioned that the ongoing unfortunate Ukrainian situation was a high priority issue at the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in Newport, Wales. (Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it is bordered by very concerned NATO members Poland, Slovakia, Hungry and Romania.) Schnepf emphasized the importance of Polish-American cooperation and overall NATO solidarity. Also referred to was the bedrock Article 5 of the NATO Treaty which requires the mutual defense of a militarily attacked member country.

DSC01726forweb  “Poles and Americans, who over many years have served as brothers-in-arms, know the price of freedom” said BG Strozyk. He invoked the name of Captain Marion Cooper, Commander of the Kosciuszko Squadron, and recounted his most interesting life’s story. He also stated that the Polish Armed Forces are currently undergoing a robust modernization program for its own defense and its obligations to NATO. The general recognized the Ukrainian Military Attaché, Major General Sergiy Pasichnyk, saying “I send you “warm words … and wish you great courage in the defense of Ukraine.”

In photo: Mr. & Mrs. Robert Ollis with Polish Military Attaché Brigadier General Jaroslaw Strozyk.

The highlight of the celebration was the awarding of the Polish Army Gold Medal – in esteemed recognition of Polish-American military cooperation – to Major General William D. Cobetto, Major General Dennis Celletti (Ret.) and Major General Daniel M. Krumrei – the 38th Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. MG Krumrei accepted his medal on behalf of the 13,000 soldiers and airmen serving in the Illinois National Guard, and proudly mentioned many details of the past 21 years of intense cooperation between the Guard and the Polish Armed Forces. “Poland and the Polish people can always, and in all circumstances, count on soldiers from Illinois,” he stated. Quoting four star U.S. Air Force General Philip M. Breedlove – NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, MG Krumrei said with great emphasis, and in a direct measured voice, that “NATO territory is inviolable, and we will defend every single piece of it.”

But, without a doubt, the most poignant moment of the observance occurred when Ambassador Schnepf introduced Robert and Linda Ollis of Staten Island, NY, parents of deceased U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Ollis. SGT Ollis, then 24, was killed on Aug 28, 2013 in Afghanistan when he selflessly used his own body to shield Polish Army Lieutenant Karol Cierpica from an insurgent who detonated his explosive suicide vest in their presence during a concentrated fierce assualt on Forward Operating Base Ghazni. LT Cierpica survived, and named his son born earlier this year in Poland in honor of SGT Ollis … the man who saved his life. Everyone was humbled by the ambassador’s praise of SGT Ollis’s heroic deed, and the presence of his proud parents. Mr. and Mrs. Ollis recently returned from Poland where they visited with the Cierpica family. They were also officially received by Poland’s President Komorowski, Prime Minister Tusk, and leading officers of the Armed Forces General Staff, all who rendered homage to their son who sacrificed his life for a Polish brother-in-arms on a remote Afghani battlefield.

Richard P. Poremski
Polish American Journal
Washington, DC Bureau
September 14, 2014

(Text and Photo by Richard P. Poremski)