As a proud first-generation American of Greek descent, March 25, 2021 has special meaning to our family, as it marks Greece's bicentennial of independence from the atrocious Ottoman Empire after being conquered and subjugated by the Turks for over 400 years.

When I was growing up, we were dressed as elite, ceremonial presidential guards, called evzones. The kilt-like uniforms, called fustanellas, consisted of a scarlet fez with a long black silk tassel, a white shirt, a long dark tunic, white woolen stockings from toe to waist and red leather clogs with a large pompom on the front. And then the colorful blue and white waist sashes, and don't let me forget the inside black garter that kept the stockings in place.

We surely got more than our fair share of teasing from the amateur bullyrags who'd hurl their funny ha-has and wisecracks at us. As an elementary school kid, I really didn't look forward to going through the incivility.

For good measure, we were drilled to memorize the Greek song and poem "Fengaraki mou Lambro" that tells the story of the secret schools young students would attend, because they weren't allowed to learn the Greek language or anything about their Christian Orthodox religion, so they had to learn about them undercover at night. Ask me today, 65 years later, and I can still recite it trouble-free.

In times past, as a kid, it was hellish for me to realize the relevancy of it all. My father's preachments, that we must rededicate ourselves to the founding principles of what my ancestors gave the world: the concept of democracy and the exchange of ideas that Socrates, Plato and Aristotle introduced, along with mathematics, medicine, theater, philosophy, Olympic sports, and inventions we still use today.

All that Greek Independence Day stuff went over the head of the little evzone boy back then. I've come to appreciate and love the contributions of my lineage for all the world to grow from, and to understand where that growth fits in the larger picture.

Zito Hellas! Happy Greek Independence Day to all.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.