Jerry Mitidis and John Pylarinos, two young sailors from Flushing spent Easter on an aircraft carrier. Jerry’s parents spoke to the Greek News.
New York – by Apostolis Zoupaniotis,br>
Maria Mitidis received on April 16, a special phone call from air carrier USS Harry S. Truman. It was from 21 year old airman Jerry Mitidis, her son. He didn’t forget her birthday and he called up to send his wishes. That was the greatest gift Maria Mitidis ever received. Saturday night, when members of Maria’s family kissed each other to say “Christos Anesti”, Jerry was not with them and his place was empty on the Easter Sunday table so they all praised God for him to come out of the war well and healthy.
“Every single day, the holidays, the weekdays, the weekends, he’s my son. My mind is constantly on him; I don’t know what to tell you. A mother is a mother; it’s embedded in you, until I can feel him in my arms, see him, kiss him, hug him, I won’t be at peace”.
Jerry’s ship is sailing in the Mediterranean, between Cyprus and Lebanon. Theoretically far away from the war, although hundreds of missions started from the flight deck of USS Truman, right where Jerry is, doing crash and salvage.
When almost three years ago Jerry (Ieronymos) told his parents that he had enlisted, the feelings amongst family members were mixed, but finally he got their blessings.
“He was only 18 years old, says Maria Mitidis. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, he was out of high school. I’m born here and I’ve always been very patriotic. I understood where he was coming from because as an American citizen I was also very much involved with what’s going on in our world and very Americanized. We knew our ethnic background but we were born here and we were American. So at first I was a little upset because I had no idea he was doing this. He hit me with this out of no where. But, he was determined to do it and I couldn’t argue the point. I gave him my blessing and I told him he’s got to do what he’s got to do”.
Along with him, two more Francis Lewis High School Students and friends were enlisted. John Pylarinos and John Nikolis. John Pylarinos is on the Truman with Jerry, and Nikolis on a destroyer in the same battle group.
Jerry’s father, Kyriakos Mitidis, a Greek Cypriot immigrant from the mixed village of Pyla, works at the Archdiocese. He has another son and a daughter. He remembers that his second son, Jerry, always wanted to be a sailor. When he was six, at a trip in Norfolk Virginia, Jerry showed great interest in the US Navy ships.
“I am happy he decided to enlist and serve his country. Something I was planning to do when I first arrived to the U.S., during the Vietnam War. But I changed my mind the last minute”, says Kyriakos Mitidis.
When it became obvious that war was inevitable, the Mitidis family’s concern rose.
“I was very nervous, says Maria Mitidis. No matter how far you are away, war is war. I mean after 9/11, I didn’t consider any place safe anymore. The fact that terrorists bombed USS “Cole” it made me uncomfortable. I was a lot more relieved at the fact that he was not ground troop. I knew that he was safer in that aspect but my concern was mostly the fact that he was on the flight deck which was a very dangerous place …. But I was very helpful and I had my faith in their training and also in God that he would be safe.”
Before his last trip to the Mediterranean, Jerry visited Archbishop Dimitrios and received his blessings.
“Archbishop Dimitrios always asks for Jerry, always prays for him”, says Kyriakos Mitidis. When it became known that Jerry is in the Navy, many people called and ask about him, like Cyprus Consul General Martha Mavrommatis, and many others, to whom Kyriakos and the whole family are grateful.
Both Maria and Kyriakos Mitidis said that they would have preferred a peaceful solution to be found in the Iraqi crisis and for the war to be avoided.
“It would have been better for everyone in the worldwide to express support, but that wasn’t possible. So, I fully support my government, I have my views but once they went to war my support for the troops was much more apparent than anything else at that point. My views were put to the side and I just focused on the troops and hoped and prayed that they’d be home safely”, says Maria Mitidis.
She told “Greek News” that she felt hurt by ignorant people who would make remarks such as “I hope they all go back in body bags”.
“When you hear things like that, yea it hurts, because you know what, there are many, your talking hundreds of thousands of innocent people, families that have husbands and brothers, children, Greek-Americans for Gods sake, you know that are there, actively fighting. Nobody wants to see blood spilled, but when you hear it coming from your own ethnic background, its much more hurtful”.
Maria Mitidis was in the United States from parents immigrated to America from the village of Lefkara, Cyprus. She sees a major dislike of Americans, in her birth place, that has been growing for years.
“I would be lying to say that it doesn’t bother me. Of course we do have Americans here that protest against the war. And as an American I feel that if one is against the war he should be able to voice it…”
Maria Mitidis realizes herself how difficult it is to express such feelings in words someone can easily put on paper. Things are not just black and white. She is happy her country came out victorious, but she also feels for the innocent people of Iraq.
“ I would never wish that on anybody. The innocent people, the children, the families that were, you know, killed. Homes destroyed, families torn apart, you would have to be totally heartless not to feel for these people. But on the other hand when I hear many of them express their views and know that millions were executed by Saddam himself, his own people suffered with him as the ruler of that of that country, I say, well unfortunately it had to be done this way. In the long run maybe they’ll have a better chance for a better life”.
When Jerry called his family on the 16th of April, he told them that they opened up communications, and that they might be coming home sooner than the scheduled return, for June 5th. Both him and his friend John Pylarinos were exhausted but relieved that the worse was over and that they’d be coming home soon.
GreekNews sent him an e-mail, but unfortunately we didn’t receive an answer until the time we went to print. Although he has been out at the sea, somewhere between Cyprus – his parents’ homeland – and the Holly Lands, and this Pascha he didn’t hear the Christos Anesti at his community church Saint Nicholas of Flushing, there are more years to come, hopefully more peaceful, for this 21 year old airman, Jerry Mitidis, his friends John Pylarinos and John Nicolis and all the other young boys and girls serving with him in a war they probably don’t understand.