TARPON SPRINGS – For the second time in Tarpon Springs’ history, the Greek Presidential Guard from Athens was invited to the mayor’s office for morning coffee and a short presentation on March 20.
The soldiers, known as Evzones, historically were an elite light infantry and mountain unit of the Greek army. Today, the primarily ceremonial unit are volunteers from the Hellenic Army’s Infantry Corps. They are charged with multiple duties, including guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the raising and lowering of the flag at the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis.
“They were picked specifically for this event,” said Mayor Chris Alahouzos.
The event began at 10 a.m., but the members of the guard were nowhere to be seen.
They were changing, said the city’s executive office coordinator, Trish Hickey. It takes almost 30 minutes for the Evzones to don their distinctive uniforms.
Their ceremonial handmade uniforms, many including the white kilt adorned with 400 pleats representing Greece’s 400 years under Ottoman occupation, weight over seven pounds and require two fellow soldiers to help put on.
Eventually, the guard, whose members must be over 6-foot-1, marched into the room standing stern, their eyes always facing front. They were led by Vice General Dimitroglou Rodolfos, the equivalent of a three-star lieutenant general in the U.S. Army.
“What an honor to have the Greek Presidential Guard from Athens,” Alahouzos, who was born in Greece, said.
He also welcomed dignitaries, including City Commissioner Rea Sieber, Admantia Klotsa, consul general of Greece in Tampa, and City Manager Mark LeCouris.
Both the city and Rodolfos exchanged gifts, and the general spoke to the crowd, mostly in Greek.
Sieber translated, stating that among the gifts to the city were a book of history, a framed uniform in World War I, and a small crystal trophy.
It had been 15 years since the Evzone guard visited Tarpon Springs, Sieber said.
“But this is the first time in this office,” Alahouzos added.