Lieutenant Artūras Jasinskas, commander of the Lithuanian military’s volunteer defense forces, awarded Nicholas Benjamin Israel, head of Baltic regional military information operations support team of US special operations in Europe, for his exceptional personal contribution to expanding and strengthening cooperation between the US military and Lithuania’s volunteer defense forces Friday, September 9.

The name of the Lithuanian military medal is “For Distinguished Service.”

Israel’s cousin, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, attended the ceremony.


Israel spoke with us about the award and his experience in Lithuania:

How important is this day for you, having in mind you are a Litvak?

This is a very important day. It’s been a pleasure to work with Lithuania’s National Defense Volunteer Forces for the last two years. I graduated from an intensive military course with two Lithuanian officers three years ago, and since then we’ve been working together. It feels good to be part of America’s promise to defend Lithuanian sovereignty, and as a Litvak it feels great to reconnect with the community here, to see my cousin Faina and to be a part of history today.

How important is it for you as a military man to be awarded in Lithuania?

It feels very rewarding to work together. When we work with the Lithuanian army and with KASP [Krašto apsaugos savanorių pajėgos, National Defense Volunteer Forces] soldiers, we teach them how we do things, but we also learn a lot from them. The army here is very good, and I’ve become a better soldier and officer by working with the army here. I hope that my work also helps make Lithuanian officers and soldiers better as well. It’s a great partnership and we’ve committed to defending each other’s freedom and each other’s sovereignty, and there’s nothing better than doing work to fulfill the promise and make sure that our nations are safe.

How do you feel in Lithuania?

It feels like home now, so when I leave I feel homesick for Vilnius. I can’t wait to come back here every time I leave.

Did you travel, did you see where your roots came from?

Yes, I’ve been able to travel all over Lithuania, I’ve seen exciting things. I’ve been able to attend services at the synagogue here, and meet with Jewish youth organizations. I was able to see exciting things like the wooden synagogue restoration…

Where? Did you forget the name? It was not in Vilnius.


Oh yes, good. So?

Anything else?

I want to ask you about the future. What do you think–I understand that you don’t make decisions–but what do you think about future cooperation?

I hope cooperation will get stronger and stronger. Already the US and Lithuanian army are very close, and the relationship will only grow, and we’ll have more of a presence here. Hopefully we’ll be able to have more Lithuanians come to the United States and train together with us. It’s total partnership. We’re excited to have Lithuania as our ally.

Is the Lithuanian army becoming stronger because of this relationship?

Yes. We see the great skills in the KASP soldiers. Being able to work with the KASP unit is great because soldiers in KASP bring skills into military operations that the military can’t train soldiers to do. These guys are not only competent in military tasks, but when we work with them we learn from them because they’re doing things in their civilian lives and they’re volunteering their time to defend Lithuanian freedom. They’re a very strong force and it’s something very impressive to us to see how Lithuanians have turned to their own civilian population and their commitment to Lithuanian sovereignty and freedom in order to volunteer their time to defend Lithuania.

Thank you, Nick! How old are you?

I’m 32.

So everything lies ahead of you. I wish you the very best. Thank you very much.

Thank you.

interviewed by Ilona Rūkienė