Wheeling Native Stephen Olejasz Gets Honor From Poland
WHEELING — A Wheeling native recently received a prestigious honor from the country of Poland for his work strengthening the relations between Poland and the United States.
Stephen Olejasz, the son of Joanne Olejasz and the late Chester Olejasz of Wheeling, received the Cavalier’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland at a ceremony in Linden, New Jersey. The award is given to foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to international cooperation and to bonds between Poland and other countries.
Olejasz received the award from the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, who was in the United States to participate in the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
Olejasz is a retired Army officer, and now a Security Policy Analyst and the Executive Vice President of the American Association of the Friends of Kosciuszko at West Point, Inc.
The association is a non-profit organization that supports the United States Military Academy’s annual Kosciuszko Memorial Ceremony.
The association and the annual ceremony honor American Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the Polish military engineer who served in the Continental Army and is best known for fortifying West Point to secure the Hudson River from British control.
Olejasz’s personal commitment to supporting strong U.S.-Polish relations began with that Kosciuszko Memorial Ceremony and conference at West Point that bring together hundreds of Americans, particularly Americans of Polish descent, and Poles to celebrate a common hero. Speakers and participants include American, Polish, and Allied military leaders, diplomats, politicians, and academics.
Olejasz and the association increased their efforts by bringing West Point cadets, including Polish exchange cadets, to Washington, D.C. for an annual visit with U.S. and Polish leaders. The group visits the Pentagon to meet with representatives from the Army staff, Joint Staff, and Secretary of Defense’s staff and then for meetings with the Polish Ambassador and Defence Attaché.
Olejasz also assists with cadet trips to Poland, where they meet with the U.S. Ambassador and Defense Attaché, Polish political and military leaders, and tour historical and cultural sites.
In recent years, Olejasz has expanded his efforts to include leading annual panels on NATO and European security issues and speaking at events in Poland. Since 2016, he has chaired a security panel at the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America’s annual international conference. He has convened U.S., Polish, and Allied military and defense officials to participate in the conference that alternates between the US and Poland.
During his Army career, Olejasz served in Europe, the Middle East, and throughout the continental United States. He has extensive experience and expertise in international military operations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) missions. In his final assignment on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, Steve served as the Chief of Coalition Affairs Policy and the military representative on U.S. delegations to NATO, the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, Austria, and UN forums in New York City and Geneva, Switzerland.