A 2003 graduate of Foothill High School, Kanakis is just back from flying and servicing helicopters in Afghanistan. He stopped by his home in Valley Trails last month to visit his mother Elaine, dad George and brother Mark only to find nearly 100 cheering members of the Pleasanton Military Families organization in the family driveway, along with at least another 35 from his family's local Greek-American community. He was here for just a few days between assignments and is already back at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., where I caught up with him. This week, he headed for Fort Rucker in Alabama to attend the Captains' Career Course.
Chris Miller, a co-founder of the Military Families group and retired Army lieutenant colonel who also piloted helicopters, in the Army, says Kanakis is "an awesome guy and in my mind deserving of the rank of General is he stays in the service." I agree and, like Miller, hope he continues his military service both for his sake and our country's.
From the start, going back to his days at Donlon Elementary School and on through Pleasanton Middle School and Foothill, Kanakis was a patriot, always standing when the national anthem was played and proud to display the flag at his home. He was captain of both the football and wrestling teams at Foothill and during his teenage years was active in local programs and organizations helping the military on active duty. He worked with the Pleasanton posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion to interview World War II veterans and collect their stories for the archives, meeting with at least 50 veterans before heading off to college.
After boosting his grade point average at San Jose State, he received appointments in 2005 to both the Air Force Academy and West Point, with West Point, interestingly, the only school that promised him the chance to become a pilot upon graduation. While at West Point, he pursued his love of flying and was cadet-in-charge of the Flying Club. He also received the Nye Award for Excellence in Research and Military Affairs for his work on the influence of West Point cadets on Army aviation.
He graduated from West Point in 2009 as a military history major with a minor in mechanical engineering, received his "wings" at Ft. Rucker, then joined Alpha Co. 4-3 Assault Helicopter Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield as a Blackhawk flight platoon leader. Since last December, until returning home to Pleasanton last month, he was deployed with the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. He served there as a Maintenance Platoon Leader and Blackhawk helicopter pilot-in-command.
Kanakis, who is single and will turn 29 next month, says he's not only very passionate about flying but that his passion carries over to his feelings about Pleasanton and the people who live here.
"The city of Savannah is a great city and does a superb job of recognizing the men and women who are stationed in their city," Kanakis said. "But it doesn't have a quarter of the reception that Pleasanton offers its troops."
"It is truly a testament to what kind of community we have and where we place our values and how important family, community and service really are in Pleasanton for a soldier like me to come home and have more than 100 people in my driveway saying 'Thank You.' This shows the core values that we have as a city."
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