Ukrainian-American Veterans of the USA gathered over the weekend of September 26-28, 2008 in Somerset, NJ for their 61st Annual National Convention, celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the organization.
His Grace Bishop Daniel represented our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA at the Convention. His Grace, opening the official banquet of the Convention led everyone in prayer while lighting a memorial candle on a table surrounded with empty chairs and head covers on the plate settings representing the five military branches of the United States Armed Forces.
The outgoing National Commander Anna Krawczuk (2004-2008) expressed her gratitude to the members of the organization for trusting her to lead them during the past four years. In particular, she touched upon a very important project of the UAV – the establishment of a National Monument honoring all men and women of Ukrainian heritage who have served or are on active duty in the United Sates Armed Forces. The monument will be erected in a very prominent location on the grounds of St. Andrew Memorial Cemetery of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA in South Bound Brook, NJ. The plot of land – located before the Memorial Church, which commemorates those who perished in the struggle for Ukrainian independence and in the genocidal famine in Ukraine (1932-33) – has been donated by the UOC of the USA out of great respect for those Ukrainian Americans who have served and are serving their nation.
Brigadier General Leonid Kondratiuk, the newly elected National Commander of the UAV and a parishioner of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Boston, MA, spoke about the mission of the Ukrainian American Veterans and their work over the past 60 years. He presented a detailed and informative presentation on a history of Ukrainians serving in the US armed forces.
His Grace Bishop Daniel addressed the Convention delegates on behalf of Metropolitan Constantine and the President of the Consistory of the UOC of the USA, His Eminence Archbishop Antony, clergy and faithful of the Church. In his remarks, the Bishop reflected upon his personal experience as a chaplain in the US Army Chaplain Corps: “In my personal experience, working closely with hundreds of young men and women of our military forces I have come to the conclusion and a firm belief that the covenant between our nation, or any nation, and those who served in the armed forces is one of the most sacred covenants in the world.” His Grace continued: “The freedoms – of the press and of religion, etc. and the rights – to vote, etc. – are granted to us and they are courageously protected at all times by the men and women who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces.”
“As we all know, however, freedoms do not come without cost. We of Ukrainian heritage know this well. There is a price that we pay for them. Our ancestors in Ukraine, fighting for their rights and freedoms understood, as do modern day Ukrainian Americans, because of their heritage, the importance of independence and freedom. I am here with you to pay tribute to the thousands of brave Ukrainian Americans who have answered the call of duty, who have paid that price. Many have died defending our freedom, paying the ultimate price. Many have suffered debilitating physical and mental injuries in their service. We owe them more than we can ever offer them for their sacrifice. Today, I bow my head before you, who represent them all, in gratitude for your service and witness, for your willingness to ensure the bright future for future generations. As we can probably all agree – as long as there are men and women who are willing to, we must be willing to honor that service.”
Bishop Daniel thanked the generations of Ukrainian American veterans who have fought the continued freedom we know in America and in so doing, have extended freedom around the world. He promised to pray for our Lord’s blessings upon and the protection of the Mother of God over the men and women of our Armed Forces and our nation.