WASHINGTON, DC, November 11, 2020 – On the occasion of Veterans Day, the Washington Oxi Day Foundation salutes all men and women in uniform who have served courageously and selflessly to protect freedom and democracy around the world.
At our 10th Annual Oxi Courage and Service Awards on October 28, we were proud to launch the Calamos Service Award which will be presented each year to a Greek-American who served courageously in the Vietnam War. The award, named in honor of decorated Vietnam War veteran John Calamos, was presented by Calamos to the first recipient of this award, Steve Pisanos. Known as “The Flying Greek,” Pisanos served courageously in WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
To see a video of the Calamos introduction, a tribute to the life of Steve Pisanos and acceptance remarks from his son Jeff, please click here.
The Calamos Service Award
John P. Calamos, Sr. joined the United States Air Force through the Illinois Tech ROTC program, earning his commission in 1963. In 1965, he went on active duty and pilot training in Texas. He was assigned to fly B-52s while stationed at Beale AFB in California on Airborne Alert. By 1968, he was ordered to Vietnam to serve as a Forward Air Controller (FAC), assigned to the 20th TASS at Da Nang. Forward air control is the provision of guidance to Close Air Support (CAS) aircraft intended to ensure their attack hits intended targets and does not injure friendly troops.
Calamos’ FAC squadron was the first to fly the Cessna O-2; an aircraft in which he recorded over 1,000 hours of flight time – 833 of those hours in combat. Captain Calamos was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Nixon for “extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight under heavy hostile attack near Thuong Duc Special Forces Camp in Southeast Asia on 28 September 1968.” His Air Force career encompassed 5 years of active duty and 12 years in the Reserves flying A-37 jet fighters. He retired a Major.
Calamos is Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Calamos Investments, a firm he founded in 1977. With origins as an institutional convertible bond manager, the firm has grown into a global asset management firm with institutional and individual clients worldwide. Headquartered in the Chicago metropolitan area the firm also has offices in London, New York, San Francisco and Miami. With 49 years of industry experience, he has written two books on convertible securities and is often quoted as an industry authority. He is a frequent speaker at conferences around the world and appears regularly on major media outlets. He received a B.A. in Economics and M.B.A. in Finance from IIT, where he and his wife, Mae, established two Endowed Chairs in Philosophy and Business. Calamos also received an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Hellenic College Holy Cross.
A son of Greek immigrants, Mr. Calamos is an active philanthropist supporting educational institutions and Hellenic organizations. He was honored with the Foundation’s 2019 Michael Jaharis Service Award. He serves as Chairman of the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago. In addition, he is a supporting member of FAITH (where he first met Michael Jaharis), National Hellenic Society, Leadership 100 and The Hellenic Initiative. He serves as an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle. He has been honored for his lifetime philanthropic contributions by various organizations including the Pan Arcadian Federation of America and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association.
2020 Calamos Service Award Recipient: Steve Pisanos
Born in Athens, Greece, in 1919, Spiros Nicholas “Steve” Pisanos, came to America in 1938, unable to speak English. In October 1941 he joined the British Royal Air Force in a squadron comprised of American volunteers flying Spitfires. In October of 1942, Pisanos was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces and on May 3, 1943 was naturalized as an American citizen in London, England, becoming the first individual in American history to be naturalized outside the continental United States. In March of 1944, while returning from his 10th victory, Pisanos experienced engine failure in his P-S1B and crash-landed south of Le Havre, France. For six months he evaded the Germans and worked with the French Resistance and the American OSS sabotaging the German war machine in occupied France.
Pisanos served with Air Defense Command from 1959 to 1964, and then served at Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe from 1964 to June 1967. In the Vietnam war, Pisanos was given command of the 457th Tactical Airlift Squadron and he served in this position until he returned to the United States in October 1968. Pisanos was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Vietnam. As his citation read: “Lieutenant Colonel Steve N. Pisanos distinguished himself by heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force near Cung Son, Republic of Vietnam, on 6 December 1967. On that date, Colonel Pisanos made a tactical emergency airdrop to a besieged patrol of special forces personnel in danger of being overrun by a superior hostile force. After overcoming extremely adverse weather conditions and mountainous terrain to locate the patrol, and overruling the patrol commander’s warning not to attempt the drop due to hostile activity, Colonel Pisanos, in complete disregard for his personal safety, airdropped the needed supplies to the patrol. His unusual skill and determination was directly responsible for the preservation of the special forces unit, which was subsequently rescued. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Colonel Pisanos reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”
In December 1973, after a distinguished thirty years of service in the United States Air Force, he retired with the rank of Colonel. Steve Pisanos died on June 6, 2016, and was buried at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego, California.