Parks Specialist Anthony Haapasaari awarded Polish Armed Forces Medal

Anthony Haapasaari is a Parks Specialist with King County Parks’ South Trails Crew, and he recently received the Polish Armed Forces Medal during a visit to Seattle by Major General Cezary Wiśniewski, Defence Attaché at the Embassy of the Polish Republic in Washington D.C.

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Pictured from left to right: Cross of Polonia Restituta recipient Mr. Andrzej Mroz, Assistant Defense Attaché at the Embassy of the Polish Republic Lieutenant Colonel Karol Sobczyk, Anthony Haapasaari, Shaan Haapasaari (Anthony and Kristin’s son), Defence Attaché at the Embassy of the Polish Republic Major General Cezary Wiśniewski, and Kristin Haapasaari (Anthony’s wife).

“Receiving this award was a very humbling experience,” said Haapasaari. “It recognizes the work I have been doing at public events and military ceremonies here in Seattle and Vancouver, Canada to commemorate and increase awareness and appreciation of the heroic – yet little known – contributions of the WWII Polish Armed Forces to Allied victory in Europe during WWII. I also work to increase awareness of the significant assistance the Polish Armed Forces have provided to the United States in both Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of combat operations after 9-11, and I provide support to the last of our Polish WWII veterans and their widows in the Seattle area as a volunteer “military attaché” for the Polish Honourary Consulate in Seattle.”

“The Polish Armed Forces Medal was established in 1999, to recognize civilians and military personnel abroad for their effort to support Poland and – in this case – Polish and U.S. cooperation, in the tradition of the Polish armed forces,” said Lieutenant Colonel Karol Sobczyk, Assistant Defense Attaché at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington D.C. “In recognition of that, the Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak decided to award Anthony Patrick Haapasaari with the Polish Armed Forces Medal.”

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The Polish Minister of National Defence Coin (left), the Polish Armed Forces Medal (center) and the Defense Attaché for the Embassy of the Republic of Poland Coin.

“On behalf of the Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak, I present you with this Polish Armed Forces Medal,” said General Wiśniewski. “I think that building relationships between nations is not about our leaders and officials only, but about the people. So, with this medal, we would just like to thank you for your dedication, your commitment, to the U.S. Polish people. Building relationships is important for us because we don’t have a consulate here, there’s no embassy in each town, but you just take this role and spend a lot of time and money just to build relationships between Poles and Americans. That’s really important from our perspective. So, thank you very much.”

Haapasaari is a member of the Polish Riflemen’s Association (Związek Strzelecki), a group founded by Marshall Józef Piłsudski during the First World War to fight for Polish freedom.  Związek Strzelecki is considered the first Polish military force of the 20th Century and, today, most of its members are teens, young adults, and veterans who train to perform as a reserve force for the Polish Army.  To the best of Anthony’s knowledge, he is the only member in the U.S. He began working with Parks in 1985 as a seasonal employee while in college, and has been a full-time employee since 1991. “I enjoy being a public employee and working in nature every day,” added Haapasaari. “Working on the Cedar River Trail and Green to Cedar River Trail in Southeast King County, I meet people from all over the world and – as my own father was an immigrant from Poland – it is especially important to me that our immigrant population feel welcome at our King County Parks facilities.”

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Anthony Haapasaari (left) after receiving the Polish Armed Forces Medal from Defense Attaché at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland Major General Cezary Wiśniewski.