After 18 years as the unofficial chaplain for Jerusalem’s Marine Security Guard detachment, Father Peter F. Vasko received the Honorary Marine title during a ceremony in the Pentagon Dec. 12.
Vasko, a Franciscan priest and New York native, stood in front of the ceremony crowd, visibly affected by the presentation, and spoke on what the day’s events meant to him.
“As a minister of God, the greatest event in my life was being ordained to the priesthood,” Vasko said. “But as an American, the greatest event is being here with you along with my band of brothers, and being elevated to the status of an Honorary Marine, a status I will cherish the rest of my life.”
Before presenting Vasko with a framed certificate and pinning him with an eagle, globe and anchor, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway talked about the significance of this award.
“The title Honorary Marine is a very special title,” Conway said. “In my two years of being commandant, Vasko will only be the sixth person awarded this title.”
Conway also said the youth of this nation are put through a process to determine whether they are worthy of the title, and it is no less of a demanding process to become an Honorary Marine.
While Vasko’s family was unable to attend the ceremony, one Marine traveled all the way from Jerusalem to see Vasko pinned as an Honorary Marine.
“He takes Marines under his wing and mentors them,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Lindner, Marine Security Guard detachment commander. “He does it out of patriotism and his love of Marines.”
Vasko returned to Jerusalem Dec. 15 to continue his holiday tradition of treating all of Jerusalem’s Marine Security Guards to a nice meal at a restaurant and a gift exchange, all of which Vasko pays for out of his own pocket.
“It means so much to be with Marines, they truly are the elite,” Vasko said. “A swell of pride and joy totally overwhelms and humbles me by having this title. I keep pinching myself, saying ‘I’m a Marine now.’ Ooh-rah!”
For more photos of the event, visit the commandant’s photo gallery at www.marines.mil/units/hqmc/cmc/Pages/default.aspx.