Pleasure to have known ‘Flag Man’
To the Editor:
On Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, I attended a ceremony marking the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II.
As I concentrated on the 108 names etched on six granite pillars and the American flag, my mind kept drifting to my friend Peter “Flag Man” Orenski.
I had been at his side as he died two days earlier, on Aug. 13.
I met Peter a few years earlier when he became an associate member of the Korean War Veterans Association.
He had learned of our organization from his friend and KWVA member Gil Nelson.
Although not a veteran, he was an extremely patriotic man.
He said his biggest regret in life was that he was never able to serve in the military of his adopted country.
You see, Peter was born in Communist-ruled Romania, the only child of Stephan and Herta Orenski.
When government officials realized the Orenski family were property owners, they had to flee Romania via Austria to settle in Poland, a more lenient Communist-run country.
On Aug. 30, 1960, the Orenskis arrived in the United States and shortly thereafter Peter enrolled in Columbia University, even though he spoke no English.
While riding the subway to class he taught himself English from Webster’s dictionary.
In 1963, he graduated cum laude with bachelor’s degree and was admitted to a Ph.D. program.
In 1965, Peter became a proud U.S. citizen.
Anyone who knew Peter knew that you couldn’t find a more generous person when it came to his adopted country, community and especially veterans.
On many occasions while driving through a town he would spot a flag in need of attention, and on such an occasion, he would present the owners with a new flag and remind them he would be watching to make sure it was correctly displayed.
At one point Peter, when asked about his success, remarked, “In Europe you are what you are born. In America, you are what you make yourself.”
The great thing about America is that you can reinvent yourself hundreds of time.
Peter “Flag Man,” It was my pleasure to have known you.