The Minister of National Defence Dimitris Avramopoulos represented the government at the event to the Honour and Memory of Hero Captain (AF) Konstantinos Iliakis, which was held on Karpathos Island yesterday.
After the memorial service, wreaths were laid to the monument which has been built at the port of the island, while during the ceremony two F-16 aircraft from the 115th Combat Wing flew at a low altitude to pay homage to the memory of the hero.
The commemoration was also attended by the Leader of the Independent Greeks party Panos Kammenos, the Chairman of the Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Parliament Konstantinos Tsiaras, MPs of the Hellenic Parliament, the military leadership of the country, the brother of the deceased Filippos Iliakis, representatives of the Region of Dodekanisa and of the local authorities.
Speech of the Minister of National Defence:
Leader of Independent Greeks party,
Representatives of the Opposition,
Chairman of the Chairman of the Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Parliament,
Chiefs of the three branches of the Armed Forces,
My dear friend Mayor,
Representatives of Kostas Iliakis’ birth place,
Dear residents of beautiful Karpathos,
we gathered here today to honour and express our gratitude and our public praise to a great Greek, Captain Iliakis, who, while performing his duty, exhaled his last breath, remaining loyal to his oath and sending a diachronic message to all Greeks with his sacrifice.
We are here today
To honour a hero.
A Greek who didn’t abandon his post.
A Greek who didn’t give in.
Who defended with passion his dream and oath. A dream which he had since his childhood, to remain always in the skies, and there he is.
To become a member of the great family of our country’s heroes and to become in the future an example for Greeks, mostly for younger generations.
Then, it was only within a few seconds that Captain Iliakis decided to give his life for Greece.
Because he needed exactly that long, as fast as the situation was developed, to leave behind him the years that he would be waiting for with his beloved ones, to leave behind the happiness and sorrow which shape the puzzle of life.
Today, at this commemoration day, apart from everything that was said, we are sending also a message of comfort to his relatives, to his brother who is here with us because we must not overlook the human side and dimension due to the symbolism of this heroic action.
He gave his life for Greece.
For a Greece that is not an abstract ideal we simply mention on anniversaries just to justify our participation in an event and a ceremony.
A Greece which we all, all Greeks, keep deeply in our hearts, a Greece that unites us.
Today, on this modest, full of symbolisms ceremony it is important to stress that the participation of almost all parties of the Hellenic Parliament is a special honour. Because in front of Greece, ideals and principles we are all one.
I do not want to refer to Kostas Iliakis’ biography. The years that passed, the events that have been held have given us all those information which compose his course since he was still a child until he joined the big family of the Armed Forces and he made family with Alexandra and his two children, Maria-Eleni and Yannis.
During his entire course, he was distinguished in the Air Force. Whoever knew him remembers his excellent character, his patriotic feelings and his strong love for Greece and the Air Force.
When the incident happened, he had already gathered about 2,000 flight hours, of which most were on F-16. So, when on May 23, 2006 he was taking off to conduct a specific mission with his colleagues, to conduct air patrol and identification of markings which were about to enter Athens FIR, he definitely didn’t know what his fate was.
And as we all know, while approaching to identify a Turkish formation from the sea area near the island that hosts us today, one of the F-16 aircraft manoeuvred in an uncontrollable manner upwards to the Greek aircraft leading to a collision on air and their total destruction.
On 23/5/2006, Captain Iliakis gave his life to his country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At a time, when our country, our nation gives a particularly painful struggle to gain back what it lost,
to gain back his position of prestige among the developed world,
to persuade mostly young people, our children, to believe in their homeland,
to believe that they can dream and prosper in this land,
Captain Iliakis’ example outweighs the fulfilment of the duty and commemorations like this have a special value since they are not just commemoration ceremonies but they update all these supreme and noble notions which heroic deeds send us as principles.
How worth really is it to love your country more than your life?
How worth is it to love Greece when this very country disappoints you, downgrades you, hurts you many times?
It is impossible, my dear friends, to estimate how worth it is.
It is impossible to estimate it, because Captain Iliakis’ self-sacrifice is the fundament on which we will build the country that will make us and our children proud again.
His self-sacrifice is the mould, I would say, we will use to shape a new generation of Greeks, who believe.
Who believe mostly in the absolute good of the homeland.
Who believe there are values for which it is worth giving even the last drop of our blood and our last breath.
Who believe in what we can create and bequeath to the next generations as Greek people.
But national understanding and unity are prerequisites for all these. We must not leave small and petty issues prevail in the public life. We must follow something big, historically long-sighted and great.
Because as we say it sometimes, when we slip up and spend time on small issues, we get smaller with them and along with us, Greece gets smaller too.
Captain Iliakis’ self-sacrifice leads also the entire struggle our nation gives today no matter which side one serves it.
And it calls us all to stand still and believe that we can make it.
To feel proud, not only of the history we wrote once, but of the history we can create every day as employees, citizens, family men, as struggling Greeks.
Today Ladies and Gentlemen,
The grateful country, as I stated at first, remembers and honours Captain Iliakis.
The hero who did not forget us at the time of his duty and, of course, the country justly awarded him the medal for outstanding acts and promoted Iliakis to the rank of Lieutenant General posthumously.
However, Iliakis – and you will agree with me – has been awarded something greater than the official ceremonies and honour which the country owed and owes him.
History awarded him the respect and love of generations of Greeks, even of those who have not yet seen the light of life.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, the day is dedicated to this great Greek. It is also a day of commemoration, honour and total acknowledgment to the country’s Armed Forces which, dedicated to their duties, are the safeguards of national independence and integrity of the country, so that Greek people can feel safe.
The Armed Forces are always alert and I wish today, on behalf of the Greek state, to assure of this not only the frontier regions of our country, but the entire Greece and the entire Greek people.
Yes, the Armed Forces are the safeguards of our independence. They are the defenders of our Democracy.
In the name of this great tribute to this great Greek man, I would like to ask you, after I myself reiterate with my voice what the Mayor said, IMMORTAL, to keep a moment of silence to the memory of this great Greek, of this great man who is an example for us and the next generations.
Thank you very much for your attention».