The Fourteenth Annual AHI-Athens Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner was held at The Grande Bretagne hotel in Athens on May 18, 2018.
The two honorees who each received the Hellenic Heritage Public Service Award were Dr. Panagiotis Behrakis and the Hellenic Armed Forces, represented by Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.
AHI recognized Dr. Behrakis for his tireless efforts to combat tobacco usage in the youth of Greece and the Hellenic Armed Forces for its illustrious achievements throughout history in the defense of Greece’s sovereignty, their defense and promotion of peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, and their commitment to defense cooperation with the United States and NATO.
Ilias Malevitis, president, AHI-Greece, welcomed the audience. George C. Economou, president, AHI-Athens Chapter, provided greetings.
Ambassador Pyatt: AHI provides “immeasurable help”
U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt provided opening remarks about the strong relationship between the United States and Greece. Ambassador Pyatt also thanked AHI “for its long history of advocating for Greece and Greek Americans.” He added that AHI’s advocacy “strengthens the U.S. government and the profound partnership and friendship between our two countries.”
Ambassador Pyatt remarked: “You have been of immeasurable help over the past couple of months in facilitating some of the most important moments in the bilateral ties between our two countries. Nick [Larigakis] was actually one of the very first representatives of the diaspora community who I had the pleasure to meet two years ago when I was getting ready for this job and also paid an important role in Prime Minister Tsipras visit to Washington last October. In particular, Nick, I want to thank you for enriching Admiral Apostolakis’ schedule during his recent visit to the United States which was extremely successful in highlighting the close relationships between our military leaders and the great scope for deepening that cooperation.”
AHI President Nick Larigakis also addressed the audience. He highlighted the objectives of AHI’s annual trip to Greece and Cyprus and updated the audience regarding how AHI programs are successful in keeping the Greek American community’s policy issues at the forefront of policymakers in Washington as well as how AHI programs help to promote Hellenic heritage and support the Greek American community.
President Larigakis also commended the evening’s honorees. He stated Dr. Behrakis has performed remarkable work to improve the public health of Greece’s youth population through public awareness and advocacy campaigns to combat tobacco use. Larigakis also lauded the Hellenic Armed Forces for its storied history, dating back to antiquity with history-changing battles at Thermopylae and Salamis, to the struggle for Independence, to World War II and Korea, to present-day efforts to provide security and counterterrorism as a dependable NATO member.
In acceptance, the honorees conveyed their appreciation to AHI and to those who helped them to reach certain milestones in their lives. Each shared their career experiences and personal stories with the audience.
Admiral Apostolakis acknowledged the overall contribution and cooperation of AHI toward the promotion of relations between the United States and Greece. Furthermore, he commented the award does not reflect personally on him, but to all the personnel of the Hellenic Armed Forces—active and retired. He pinpointed the men and women of the Hellenic Armed Forces as the key force multiplier, underlining the excellent level of training and professionalism as well as their high morale.
Regarding the role of the Hellenic Armed Forces in the wider area of the Eastern Mediterranean, he emphasized its significant impact in providing stability which are achieved mainly through the formation of bilateral and multilateral schemes of military cooperation. Furthermore, he highlighted the multilayered support the Hellenic Armed Forces provides in areas of disaster response and relief, firefighting, medevac and others.
In acceptance, Dr. Behrakis stated, “It is a great honor to receive the AHI award of 2018.” He also provided an overview of the work that he and his team created in their efforts to prevent the consumption of tobacco in Greece’s youth over the past decade.
“Smoking prevalence in Greece has declined and it is now very close to the European average,” he said. “Consumption of tobacco has also decreased by 50 percent in the past decade and most importantly the Greek public has changed it attitude towards smoking.”
Dr. Behrakis has created a scientific based practice of approaching youth and tobacco prevention without using negative imagery or fear tactics.
“The award of today is dedicated to George Behrakis, the philanthropist from Boston,” he stated in his closing remarks. “A man who has been generously funding our work for the last ten years. Without him nothing would have happened.”
Musical interludes were provided throughout the evening by the Light Orchestra of the Hellenic Navy Band, led by Lieutenant Commander Georgios Tsilbaris. Olga Bournozi of Capital Link served exceptionally as Master of Ceremonies. In addition to AHI-Greece President Ilias Malevitis, and AHI-Athens Chapter President George Economou, president, AHI Members Katerina Papathanassiou, Sylvia Gavalla. Special thanks to Vasileios Kyriazis, Rear Admiral (ret.) H.N. who provided guidance throughout the event and AHI Member George Mermelas for his public relations support. Both contributed greatly to the dinner’s success.
“We are delighted this special event, now in its fourteenth year, has grown to new heights,” Larigakis said. “We would like to thank the AHI-Athens Chapter for its hard work as well as to our generous benefactors and sponsors.”