Several retired Orthodox Church in America chaplains were awarded the Military Pectoral Cross during the 19th All-American Council [AAC] in Saint Louis, MO July 23-27, 2018.
“The Primatial Award is presented to Orthodox clergy who have served in the United States Armed Forces as military chaplains in the Active Duty, Reserve Component or National Guard Chaplaincy per specified criteria in the protocols in recognition of exemplary and honorable service,” explained Archpriest Theodore Boback, Dean and Executive Director of Orthodox Military and Veterans Administration Chaplains.
At the conclusion of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Saint Louis Union Station Hetel on Sunday, July 22 marking the 92nd annual national Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America Convention and the beginning of the 19th AAC, the cross was presented to Archpriest Daniel Ressetar, a retired US Air Force Reserve Chaplain, by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon. Receiving crosses from Metropolitan Tikhon at the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated on Thursday, July 26, were Archpriest Peter Baktis, US Army; Archpriest Andrew Harrison, US Air Force Reserve; Archpriest Mark Koczak, US Navy; and Archpriest Andrew Nelko, US Navy. Retired chaplains who were unable to attend the AAC will receive their crosses from their respective diocesan bishops, on behalf of Metropolitan Tikhon and the Holy Synod of Bishops, at local celebrations.
“Commencing with World War II, when Father Vladimir Borichevsky was commissioned as the first US Orthodox chaplain, we have had priests of the OCA serving in the US Armed Forces,” said Father Theodore. “Our military chaplains have served during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Global War on Terrorism, and in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, Bosnia, the Balkans, and elsewhere. Our priests volunteer to serve our Church and our nation in a viable and dynamic ministry to the men and women in the US Armed Forces, authorized civilians families and sometimes coalition forces.” [See related story.
The cross initially was designed and awarded to senior military chaplains in the 1970s. The original design was the work of the late Walter Palchik, an Orthodox Christian jeweler.
“Through an anonymous earmarked donation to the OCA, it was possible for a new mold of the cross to be made and subsequently recast,” Father Theodore explained. “Those involved in this process included His Grace, Bishop Daniel, Episcopal Liaison; Archpriest Eric Tosi, OCA Secretary; and Office of the Military Chaplaincy personnel.
“After contacting various jewelers, Archpriest Nazari Polataiko of Los Angeles, CA was consulted and through discussions with him, Archpriest Nikolay Melnik was identified as an individual who could make the mold and recast the cross,” Father Theodore added. “Father Nikolay’s work was so precise as to include the inscription on the reverse side of each cross, which reads, ‘For no greater love is there than to give one’s life for a friend [John 13:15]’—a reminder that chaplains share unconditionally in the life of the service members and that their faith, trust, and hope operate through their love of God and their love of those to whom they minister.”
During the 19th AAC, current and retired military chaplains also met with Metropolitan Tikhon, Bishop Daniel, Father Theodore and recruiters after Thursday’s plenary session.
“The Office of the OCA Military Chaplaincy is grateful to the anonymous donor who made this award possible and thanks all who helped in the endeavor,” Father Theodore said. “Above all, we need to ensure that the continued Orthodox leadership role in all aspects of chaplaincy are provided and performed. Therefore, our office and the chaplains continue on the journey into the 21st century with faith, hope and love in all aspects of ministry and endeavors ‘for the life of the world’ and for the glory of God.”