The soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, raised the national flags of the U.S., Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia during a re-naming ceremony, July 22, 2016. Vasingtono Aikste, center of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was re-named Washington Square after the United States political seat of power, honoring the nations' alliance.
In attendance were many U.S. government representatives including U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Debra A. McCarthy, U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania. The Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs was also there with Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius and Parliament member Emanuelis Zingeris.
Government officials from Lithuania and the U.S. delivered speeches during the celebration including Remigijus Simasius, mayor of Vilnius. Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania, also made an appearance. Landsbergis, the first head of state of Lithuania after its independence declaration from the Soviet Union, served as the Head of the Lithuanian Seimas, or parliament.
"I think it is great that our two nations have a mutual respect where the Lithuanians would like for us to participate in their ceremony," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Cliff Bowman, native of Woodbury, TN, Liaison Officer to the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania, assigned to 3rd Bn., 69th Arm. Rgmt., "It just goes to show that our alliance in NATO is strong, and we are building relationships with our allies, particularly in Lithuania. I felt very proud to see our U.S Soldiers raising the American flag and representing our nation."
Food and music played a role in the event. Traditional American dishes such as pizza and hamburgers were served to those in attendance. Virgis Stakenas, a local Lithuanian vocalist, sang to the crowds gathered there.
"It makes me feel very proud that the mayor would choose Washington as the new name for their city center," said Bowman. "Our influence in this region seems to be a positive one, and I am glad to be a part of it. I hope our two countries will continue to work together to promote stability."
The soldiers of 3rd Bn., 69th Arm. Rgmt., are training with their Baltic allies in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. lead effort being conducted in Eastern Europe to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.