CεLιnε: Admirals, Command staff, fellow Coasties, good evening! I am SCPO Celine Commanding Officer of Station Farcastle; I would like to welcome you all to this modest ceremony our Station is hosting, and thank you for attending. We gathered here today to honor a guardsman of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Lieutenant Kyriakos.
Papadopoulos, who this day, on the 10th of October 2018, passed away while being on active duty. You might be wondering who was LT Papadopoulos and why we honor his memory here today. Please, allow me to give you a short presentation on his real-life background. Papadopoulos was a native of Lesvos island descendant from a Greek refugee family who landed on the island from Nikomidia, Turkey, in 1922. Married and father of two daughters. He enlisted in the Hellenic Coast Guard in 1999 when he was 25 years old, after two years of working as a seafarer in the merchant navy. During the period 2015-2016, Greece was in the middle of a migrant crisis. Millions of people suffering from war effects in the Middle East were attempting to cross Greece and Turkey’s water borders.
At that time, the small island of Lesbos was the preferred entry point into the European Union for nearly one million people, mostly Syrians fleeing civil war. On some days, the rate of incoming people at Lesbos shores reached the number of 4215, crammed in dinghies, unable to hold their weight. Several hundreds of people didn’t make it, drowned in the Aegean Sea, and many went missing. During the specific period, Lieutenant Papadopoulos was staged on the small Coast Guard station of Mytilene’s port. He and his crew, often helped by local fishermen, managed to pull to safety refugees, including women and children, even babies in some cases, who were attempting to cross the short but so perilous crossing from Turkey’s shores to Greece. For his actions, greek media gave him the titles like “Hero of the Aegean Sea” or “Guardian angel of refugees” later on, he was awarded by the Greek State and Academy of Athens. He was a man of great honor with humanitarian beliefs. He managed to show through his dedication to duty the true meaning of humanity’s values, solidarity, equality, and peace when Western Europe governments were shutting their borders, denying the entry of those who were seeking to live a life without war.
Rescuing more than 5000 souls from the sea was undeniable proof of what kind of man was, a man who turned to be an emblematic figure for the Hellenic Coast Guard and his country. : A young journalist, Daphne Matziaraki, inspired by his actions, tireless efforts, selflessness, and high sense of duty, came to Lesbos island and filmed a short documentary titled “4,1 miles”, which is the distance between Turkey and Lesbos island. The film follows him in real-time was nominated in the category Best Documentary Short Subject at the 89th Academy Awards in 2017, also was screened in United Nations during Papadopoulos’ visit. It is a 20 minutes film that reveals what refuges faced at sea, and of course, it shows the seamanship and greatness of Lt Papadopoulos and his crew. The film can be viewed on the screen above and behind me by clicking on the screen.
CεLιnε: As you may have watched , the film was extremely raw. But the whole situation with the migrant crisis in the Middle East was raw. Sadly, two years ago, on the 10th of October 2018, LT Papadopoulos unexpectedly passed away at 44 due to a heart attack. Hellenic Coast Guard lost one of the most emblematic officers that ever enlisted, a man who, despite the difficulties or the low salary or even the lack of equipment in some cases, remained stoic and put his duty beyond his own life and family. He shall not be forgotten. He shall be remembered as a true hero of our times and as a bright example for us in SL Coast Guard for his efforts and his values. Lieutenant Tersimus, please, the deck is yours.
Tersimus: Thank you, Senior Chief. Senior Chief Celine asked me to speak some words at this ceremony, and I followed her invitation. There are indeed some things to say. At the height of the European refugee crisis, tens of millions of people lost their homes and existence, millions fled. The images you have seen repeated not only over days and weeks but months and years. When Austrian Chancellor Werner Fayman and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited the island, Fayman asked Papadopoulos, “How many people have you saved?” He replied, “More than 5,000.” Fayman did not hear the number well and commented, “5 lives, that’s very important.” When he was corrected and told it was 5,000 lives, Fayman said, “You are a hero!”
The news writes, numbers, accounts, and probably a world record in saving lives at sea.
It sounds like a glamorous business, like every other business, aiming for more. Further, higher growth. And it is true, hearing how one man saved more than 5,000 lives sounds like a herculean task. And it was! Incredible When I first heard about it, I thought about the industrial mass production of rescues. Taking one after another aboard, a man and his crew not getting tired to pull one survivor after another from the water. Strong men, coming home as glamorous heroes, day after day, saving lives. I admit: I could not have been more naive. It was much later when I saw the documentary and realized that these glorious numbers come together in a much different way. We saw it today. In 5,000 survivors, there are certainly also several hundred of dead bodies that were recovered from the water. Literature knows seven types of heroes. Sports know heroes, and every son and daughter has a hero. But what is “a hero”? Wikipedia offers this definition: “A hero (the heroine in its feminine form) is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength.” And they go on: “The word hero comes from the Greek ἥρως (hērōs), “hero” (literally “protector” or “defender”)” It’s all here, in this man. We have seen the crew fighting for the lives of those they took aboard. They could not save all. We heard of the fear, did they find them all at night at sea? All this surrounded by many more survivors aboard scared, crying, confused, soaking wet, and cold. People who are at the moment when they realize their lives changed forever. For some, the moments when they lost a child, father, mother, or wife. A moment when they find themself all alone Later the “accounting”. Numbers, reports. Unlike our virtual world, they are not all survivors. They won’t line up, salute and go their way, having a happy day. And it’s coming back tomorrow. Repeating. When I think of this, the horrors that come with these rescues, the grief, the suffering, I see a special kind of hero. A quiet, stoic hero. Not a Bruce Willis type of muscle packed action figure or man of many words. A few of his words, we find them on the side of the statue, stick to my mind. If you cam to the sides of the installation behind me, you can read them. Words that show: We suffer with them. And we can not help when lives are in danger. “A few miles away, people need our help. This special kind of heroism, the strength needed, we see in many other people and professions. Lt. Papadopoulos’s life and duty happened concentrated, focused, and under the most dramatic circumstances. Doctors and nurses, never more than 2020, head each day into workplaces that confront them with such extreme situations. Ambulance personnel is driving to car accidents every day. And no matter what these experiences do to them, what burden and responsibility they carry, they keep coming back to do their jobs and help more. I know we have some of them with us in our group. You, ladies and gentlemen, are heroes, too. I like to point your attention to a special scene: The dinner table. The documentary is an opinion piece; it presents points of view on a matter and certainly does. It had to and did highlight political questions around Greece and Turkey’s refugee situation to offer a comprehensive insight into the situation’s complexity. But when the political dimension of the refugee crisis are brought up, Lt. Papadopoulos remained quiet. He listened and didn’t comment. He didn’t offer his opinion on political questions, some of which are not solved even half a decade later. He spoke about rescuing people from the water. This is a clear separation, a line drawn. There is no question that all lives must be saved as these are matters of morals and values. We see christian values and humanism, morals we can identify with: A deep sitting, elemental understanding that every single life matters and that no one shall drown. These values exist beyond politics, pragmatism, and the neverending struggle to find balance, compromise, and solutions for problems through debates and the lawmaking process. Even in this small moment at the dinner table, Lt. Papadopoulos sets an example and highlights something our societies seem to have a hard time keeping in mind.There are boundaries between ethical, moral questions, and the political dimension or consequences of the same thing. When we see these lines blurred, in Lt. Papadopoulos and his tireless efforts, I see a moral compass that knows its true north, and I feel in me to wanting to follow his course. With the memorial at Farcastle, we honor an extraordinary man who quietly and repeatedly went out to save lives. He passed away on this day, two years ago, at the age of 44. He is survived by his wife and children and by all those people he saved. His legacy lives on in more than 5,000 souls that are still among us. More than 5,000 souls that live and laugh and love. 5,000 men, women, and children would have otherwise been lost at sea and ended their journey early on this earth. Seeing a European hero honored like this by SL Coast Guard is something very special to me. While we are an international group, it’s rare to see heroes highlighted who are not tied to the United States or the USCG in one way or another. I like to thank those who made this memorial and the rechristening of the Farcastle FRC possible, adding to the profile, sharpening our group’s international character, and honoring a great man. A hero and an example for us all. Thank you.
CεLιnε: Thank you, LT, Area Commander. Captain Sophie will continue on the deck. Ma’am the deck is yours.
Sophie Sharkfin: thank you, Senior Chief.
Admirals, commanding officers, fellow guardians, and honored guests, greetings. Thank you for joining us today for this solemn ceremony commemorating the legacy of Lieutenant Kyriakos Papadopoulos. Thank you to Station Farcastle for hosting and SCPO Celine for putting this all together. And thank you to the Honor Guard for their dedication to service. And also to Tersimus and Shadow for offering their time to participate and share some words. Ladies and gentlemen, the question at hand is, how is it possible to bring real-life Coast Guard values and principles into our SL lives? And further, what does the legacy of LT Papadopoulos mean to us in this online world?
What values can we take away from his journey and heroism? This past week, I met with a Business Ethics professor who had served two full careers in both the military and the corporate sector. He was a warship Captain and then a VP of some company. And he explained to me that leaders in the military tend, in general, to have a greater sense of ethical behavior and a better sense of emotional intelligence in terms of determining what the “right thing to do” given a particular moral challenge is. He said it wasn’t always the same case in the business sector. I found this hard to believe, but I listened to him anyway; I am a skeptic of these types of generalizations, having served in the military for two and half decades and having seen a few people do wrong. But he wasn’t saying military leaders are experts at “right versus wrong” — that is different altogether. He was arguing that military leaders will often “do the right thing” when the situation demands it, even if it means going against the prevailing political winds of the day or violating a long-standing policy that, in a particular situation, doesn’t make sense. Even if it means they will lose their job over it. And part of it is that military members are not seduced by financial gain since they tend to get paid relatively less than their civilian equivalents. It’s about serving.
Sophie Sharkfin: Indeed, this professor also noted that senior military leaders are swift to remove commanders from positions due to ethical violations and will hold Commanding Officers accountable for violations under their watch. I have seen that a lot too. My friends, this is a good thing — doing what is right AND being held accountable for what is done wrong. These principles should guide everyone, every organization, not just military leadership or the SL Coast Guard. Lt Kyriakos Papadopoulos also did the right thing. During the worst humanitarian crises of this century, not all other coast guards went out of their way to save migrant lives. Some migrants were turned away. Others were ignored. Few countries wanted them. And people died. Men, women, and children. You just watched it a few minutes ago. But some mariners did do the right thing. And Lt Papadopoulos, not motivated by any personal gain other than a sense of service to fellow man, was among them. In the SL Coast Guard, I’d like to believe we also have core values that should guide us towards doing “the right thing”… It starts with our “mission”, which is promoting boating safety, and our “vision” which is to save lives at sea ultimately. You might say, well, that is far fetched “saving lives at sea”? while using a computer? But our response should be, “So what! We will try anyway!” Because it’s the right thing to do. That’s the thing about a vision — it needs to be bold and aspirational because it’s the right thing to do! Indeed, the SL Coast Guard vision is textbook vision — there is nothing like it in second life, nothing so bold as to believe we can serve to save lives in the real world. Our core values — the principles that feed into our mission and vision — are Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty.
“Honor”… We believe in demonstrating ethical conduct and moral behavior in all of our personal and organizational actions. We are loyal and accountable to the SL community because it’s the right thing to do.
“Respect”…We value our diverse membership. We treat each other and those we serve with fairness, dignity, respect, and compassion. We encourage creativity through empowerment. We work as a team because it’s the right thing to do.
And “Devotion to Duty”…We are professionals who seek responsibility, accept accountability, and are committed to achieving our organizational goals. We exist to serve. We serve with pride because it’s the right thing to do.
I ask that we all take in these core values, absorb them, talk of them often, and make them part of our lives. Just as LT Kyriakos Papadopoulos did, and do this to honor men and women like Lt Papadopolous, as SCPO Celine said earlier….. “He shall not be forgotten. He shall be remembered as a true hero of our times and as a bright example for us in SL Coast Guard for his efforts but also for his values.” the values of honor, respect and devotion to duty. Thank you.
Senior Chief, the deck is yours.
CεLιnε (dalia.thei): Thank you, Captain. Senior Chief McConach, may continue. Senior Chief, the deck is yours.
Shadow McConach – Utzon (shadow.mcconach): Thank you, Senior Chief. Admirals, commanding officers, fellow guardians, and honored guests, let us pray. Dear Father,
two years ago today, you called Lieutenant Kyriakos Papadopoulos home. Today, we come to honor his service to the Coast Guard and you.
We lift his family, friends, and all of those that he touched up in prayer,
Lord, that you will comfort them and use his life as an inspiration to them. Our Coast Guard family, worldwide, mourns the loss of this man, and thanks to you for his time here with us. May we leave this service today with a clearer vision of duty, reminded
by this Memorial Statue that each person can make a world of difference. Use us, as you used the Lieutenant, in whatever way possible, Lord.
CεLιnε (dalia.thei): Thank you, Senior Chief. The conclusion of this ceremony will be from our Honor Guard Rest in Peace, Kyriakos.
You are absolutely correct, you cannot watch the ceremony without being moved to an emotional overflow of tears, it is hard to imagine having to endure life in a war-torn country with no help, no way out and the only way you have is to get into a rubber raft supplied by smugglers, knowing that you could possibly die on your way to freedom. He was a good man, and his memory is well honored at Station Farcastle, as well as the boat that bears his name. Rest In Peace Sir, you earned your rest and I am sure your reward is far greater than you could imagine. Your event honored him well SCPO Celine and your monument to the man is so very beautiful, Great work PO1 Willow Hamilton on the Monument.
CPO Asa Darkbyrd