Lansdowne, PA – “Great men. We’re here because of them,” said Paree Stoulis who stood for a photo opportunity with her brother and a WWII veteran, holding a black and white photograph of her father, Angelo Stoulis. Stoulis, who recently passed away, was a Second Class cook, who served in the Pacific during WWII and was an Eleftheria Post member.
“I’m here to pick up the flag for him and carry on. To fight against oppression in America,” said George Stoulis who served in the Navy and was on USS Intrepid during Vietnam. Stoulis (far right) proudly displayed his father’s cap and medals on his shoulder. This was the first visit to commemorate the loss of their father and to be with his fellow Greek-American VFW post members. For seventy-two years, the Eleftheria VFW Post 6633 has kept the tradition of honoring those veterans that have passed, and although the number of living members continues to thin, they keep the Memorial Day services alive.
Members of the post read out the names of their deceased ranks, which was followed by a hymn led by Father Gregory Gilbert of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. Some 358 veteran names were read off today during the thirty-minute ceremony. In years past, the veterans would gather and march to the Greek section of Fernwood Cemetery. When the service would near the end, Vice Commander George Baxevanos would ask for help from the community, reading off the names. This year, those prayers were answered in a big way. The Onassis family, whose ties to the community are well known answered the call. Tina Onassis, a one time parishioner of the community, shared the duties, while her son, Yianni Onasis, a boy scout with Troop 7 of Cradle of Liberty, stood tall by the flag of our nation.
Up to this year, there has always been the ceremonial firing of guns, which was the highlight of the Memorial service. There was no gunman salute this year. “We’re all in our 80s now, and we can’t stand up any longer,” said veteran Chris Callas before firing those last shots the previous year. The tradition lasted 69 years with two guns being fired off. Last year, one remained, and this year, those guns remained silent. Instead, a recording of Taps and a gun salute at the end filled the void. Where once hundreds of veterans attended the service, today, approximately eight veterans were left, who stood amongst the guests. Many sat in lawn chairs and underneath a tree. This year more families were present than our soldiers.
Cosmos Philly remembers on this Memorial Day, all those that have paid the ultimate price and our veterans that have passed, for they are the ones that have protected our freedoms. We also wish to thank all veterans and those currently serving in America’s armed forces here and throughout the world, for their service and we ask that all our viewers and supporters never forget our veterans and service men and women, especially the Eleftheria VFW Post 6633.