A Cal Poly student opened his mailbox to see Greek military service papers. That isn’t a common siting but Brandon Tsouanatos has been expecting these since the moment he turned eighteen. As a dual citizen, he is currently getting called to duty.
Turning eighteen is a big celebration but in other countries it comes with more responsibilities that Americans do not cross paths with. Under the Greek law males between the ages of 18 and 45 are required to serve in military training.
He said “it’s just a thing that I know I have to do.”
Tsouanatos moved from Athens, Greece to get used to America before attending a university and he now considers it his home. He is getting called to military service just as his father and grandfather have done before him, now it is his responsibility.
It is a normal part of life for Greek citizens to leave for a year or so to serve and live on the base, occasionally coming home for breaks.
Since 1909, the length of mandatory service has changed to reflect the country’s political situation. During the time that Tsouanatos’ family moved to America, the economic crisis in Greece was getting bad so it was common for people to move to other countries.
An economic geographer, Lois Labrianidis estimated 170,000 university graduates have left Greece since the crisis.
“I was actually supposed to be in Greece doing my military training about a week ago, but since I’m in college I’m trying to extend it. If that’s not done by the time I’m in Greece this summer, then they [government] are going to hold me in prison until that gets sorted out,” said Brandon Tsouanatos.
As a dual citizen, Tsouanatos is considered “living abroad” so he has the ability to retract his Greek citizenship or defer his service. That requires him to jump through several hoops. In his words “it is a difficult, complicated, long, annoying process that needs to be completed” so that he can get back to finish college.
The training involves tasks ranging from guard duty to desk work and includes strict exercise, washing dishes, sweeping, and harsh conditions.
“From my dad, grandpa and uncle I’ve heard it’s pretty intense. You wake up at like 4 a.m. to hike with stuff on your back and do target training,” said Tsouanatos. Stories are passed down by generations of the older soldier’s conducting rituals on the newer recruits.
“Most people say it is the best time of their lives because they get really close with the guys they serve with, but I got bored near the end,” Theodorus Tsouanatos .
Tsouanatos said “I have no problem serving, I kind of want to go almost. I grew up knowing I have to do this the whole time. It’s just a thing that I know I have to do.”
Featured image by Danel Solabarrieta (Flickr, Creative Commons) photo of the Oia sunset in Santorini, Greece.