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Solidarity and Medals
On Polish Armed Forces Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The few hundred guests formed a critical mass here at the Ambassador’s Residence on the evening of September 28, 2017 to celebrate Polish Armed Forces Day. The event’s co-hosts were Ambassador Piotr Wilczek and Defense Attaché Brigadier General Cezary Wisniewski – Commander of the Defense Attaché Office and its Army, Navy, and Air Force attachés. Assistant Defense Attaché Lieutenant Colonel Karol Sobczyk served proficiently as the event’s architect and master of ceremonies. The invitees included many representatives of the U.S. Armed Forces and government, diplomats and military attachés from the plethora of foreign embassies, Polish army veterans and the Polonia.

In photo: Honoring Both Countries. Ambassador Piotr Wilczek (left), Brigadier General Cezary Wisniewski and Lieutenant Colonel Karol Sobczyk are depicted at solemn attention while the Polish Army Band performs the national anthems of Poland and the United States. The occasion was held in celebration of Polish Armed Forces Day at the Ambassador’s residence.

After stirring presentations of the national anthems Jeszcze Polska Nie Zginela and the Star Spangled Banner by the attending 30-strong Polish Army Band, Ambassador Wilczek warmly welcomed everyone and delivered his remarks. He focused mainly on the American-Polish alliance and NATO participation. The strong bilateral relationship between the two countries was emphasized. “Poland is meeting its NATO defense spending requirement and Polish forces are deployed abroad in many countries on NATO missions.”

Wilczek continued that U.S. and NATO forces are defensively deployed in N.E. Poland – dubbed Battle Group Poland – as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence strategy as a result of the threats that a now resurgent and belligerent Russia poses to its neighbors. “Poland continues to support strong sanctions against Russia, especially in view of their use of force in Georgia and Ukraine in violation of international norms and laws. Without NATO the world would be a more dangerous place.”

General Wisniewski began his address by reminding everyone that Polish Armed Forces Day is celebrated each year in Poland on August 15th to commemorate the 1920 Battle of Warsaw “when the invading Bolshevik (Russian) forces were stopped and defeated at the very gates of Warsaw, effectively stopping the spread of communism across the continent of Europe. The American airmen comprising the Kosciuszko Squadron played a crucial role in the battle. Only two years earlier Poland had just regained its independence (after 128 years) with the strong support of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Each year Poland always remembers this service and support.”

Wisniewski continued with a comprehensive overview of Poland’s increased defense spending and the ongoing modernization of its armed forces. As per NATO commitments, he said “we fight together when necessary, and we are currently operating on three continents via army, navy and air force deployments.” He ended with a most prescient remark: “Working together we can preclude another war.”

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Polish Armed Forces Medal to four individuals “For their efforts to strengthen the Polish-American relationship in the process of joining NATO.” Recognized were Mr. Christopher ‘Kip’ Bergstrom (on behalf of the late Mrs. Marilyn Piurek) – Bronze Medal … Mr. Dale Denda – Silver Medal … Mr. Roman Korzan and Mr. Richard Kosinski – Bronze Medals.

Mr. Dale Denda gave a fascinating and detailed historical account of the work of the Federation of Polish Americans, Inc. – Political Action Committee (FPA-PAC) regarding Poland and NATO membership, summarized as follows:  “It was thought that Poland’s accession into NATO (on March 19, 1999) was inevitable, but it was not inevitable. It was a very hard fought battle for four years, beginning in the House, before the final Senate confirming vote in 1998. Trial legislation was continuously blocked, short circuited or defeated. We (FPA-PAC) mobilized the Polish American community in multiple states to lobby their congressional delegations. We sought out allies in Congress – and they sought us out. Crucial bi-partisan (legislation) co-sponsors were recruited and eventually a large 80% margin consensus was reached in both houses. The White House was then successfully lobbied directly to the person of President Clinton.”

In Photo: Polish Armed Forces Medals Awarded. Mr. Dale F. Denda, Former National Vice President of The Federation of Polish Americans, Inc., is depicted addressing the audience on behalf of all the awardees after himself being awarded the Silver Medal. He recounted the many critical contributions – including trials and tribulations – of the Federation’s strenuous efforts that greatly assisted in Poland’s eventual accession into NATO.  

Without a doubt, the Federation played a crucial role as Poland’s advocate in the political arena that included lobbying federal politicians, testifying before Congress, attending congressional hearings and supporting relevant legislation.

The sumptuous reception was an epicurean’s delight in all respects. Everyone socially comingled in the spacious residence and outside on the expansive greensward under the starlight fall sky. And the Polish Army band played on, as before the ceremonies began, featuring renowned Polish actress, entertainer and singer Malgorzata Lipka.

It was assuredly a most memorable 97th Polish Armed Forces Day celebration for everyone to deposit into their memory bank to draw upon into the future.

By Richard P. Poremski
Polish American Journal
Washington, DC Bureau

October 11, 2017