ORANGE, CT – Sperie Perakos, past District Governor of the Order of AHEPA, was awarded the Legion d’Honneur (Legion of Honor) by the French government at a ceremony in Orange, CT on October 29. The French Legion of Honor is the highest honor awarded to a civilian and was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to recognize women and men for acts of exceptional achievement for the Republic of France and her people.
Perakos, a graduate of Yale University, a past District Governor of Yankee District #7 and distinguished Life Member of AHEPA, and a parishioner of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Orange, was honored by the French Deputy Consul General Damian Laban for his service and courage as part of the Allied Forces in World War II.
Perakos was a Captain and Combat Intelligence Officer in the 448th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, landing in France with General George Patton’s Third Army as part of the Normandy invasion, marching across France and securing vital territory, and helping to liberate St. Mere l’eglise, one of the first territories freed by the American Army, and for which the Mayor of that village presented Perakos with the Coat of Arms of the city. Perakos went on to serve behind the enemy lines in reconnaissance and surveillance, assisting the French army and insurgents in battling Nazi troops.
Perakos accepted this great honor saying that “with deep humility, I share the French Legion of Honor with my comrades in arms – in Normandy, 1944 – our Thermopylae. With unabating sadness, I further share this significant honor with those of us, who, today, lie in France – under white crosses and stars of David – MY ETERNAL BAND OF BROTHERS!”
Deputy Consul General of the French Republic, Damian Laban, presented this distinguished medal to Perakos at his home in Connecticut, a ceremony attended by a small group of dignitaries and friends. Major Patrick W. Dugan, Retired, U.S. Army, whose father Staff Sargent William Dugan served with Perakos at Normandy, drove from Ohio to present Perakos with the American flag. Symbolically, Major Dugan and Deputy Consul General Laban sprinkled soil from Utah Beach under Perakos’ feet indicating that “the people of France now trod on soil liberated by the Allied Forces.”
Yale University was represented by Adrian Bonenberg, ’02, who served in Afghanistan and is president of the Yale Veteran’s Association; and Thomas C. Duffy, composer, Professor of Music and Director of the University Band. Other guests were Allison Fox, spouse of a deceased Yale classmate, Joe Fox, both of whom served in WWII; George Kaouris, a St. Barbara Parishioner, whose family was under the Italian occupation in the island of Cephalonia; and Gregory J. Stamos, a longtime friend, representing his father, Peter Stamos, who served in the Battle of the Bulge, and as past Supreme Counselor of the Order of AHEPA, spoke of Perakos’ decades of service to AHEPA and to his Orthodox faith, “providing a constant example of leadership and dedication to all who served with him.”
Stamos was also asked by Perakos’ devoted spouse, Nikki, to describe the mission of the Order of AHEPA since its inception almost a century ago, evolving from combating bigotry and advancing the life of immigrants to a current mission of philanthropy, service, and freedom for all. Stamos also related one of the defining moments for Hellenes, when Archbishop Iakovos, in 1965, marched arm in arm with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama, and Deputy Consul General Laban noted that the nation of France shares common values with Greece and the Order of AHEPA, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.”