Turkey’s longest-serving veteran who took part in the 1974 Cyprus peace operation to save Turkish Cypriots from a campaign of ethnic violence, Resat Colak still remembers the crucial operation and his time in the military Turkish air.
Speaking to the Anadolu agency on the eve of Veterans Day, celebrated on Sunday, Colak said: “I would rush to work if I was called, even at the age of 87.”
âIt is a great pleasure to serve your country,â said Colak, also known as Resat Baba or Father Resat.
âI also like the Air Force, because I joined when I was a young boy. And I still haven’t let go. As I always say, I have been an aviator for 71 years.
Even nearly 50 years after his retirement, Colak would love to visit again the places where he flew in troops and dodged anti-aircraft fire from the Besparmak Mountains, a narrow beach stretching over 170 kilometers (105 miles) along the Cypriot coast.
Colak said he was proud of the Turkish military and in particular the air force with its new additions, such as drones and domestically made unmanned aerial vehicles.
Showing off his memories of the operation and his years of service, Colak proudly wears his medals in his museum-like home in the Turkish capital Ankara.
Ethnic attacks that began in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to retreat to enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at annexing Greece led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was founded in 1983.
– “Courageous decision”
Colak said that in 1974 Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and his deputy Necmettin Erbakan – both since deceased – “took the very courageous decision to intervene using the country’s rights under the Zurich and London accords as guarantor”.
âOtherwise, they would have wiped out all Turkish Cypriots from the island. Because they spared no one – women, children, the elderly, âhe said.
âThey were buried in mass graves. The Turkish Cypriots have suffered greatly.
He said the operation brought peace to the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, adding: âExcept for minor incidents, people can live in peace now. “
Recalling that fateful day, he said his group landed in Kayseri in central Turkey the day before the operation.
âOn the morning of July 20, we took off from Kayseri and left at 5 am. The place we were going was planned, of course. All the paratroopers jumped in less than an hour in the Gonyeli region, and we returned to Turkey without any casualties, âhe added.
Colak later said they returned to the Air Supply and Maintenance Center command for minor repairs to the planes that had come under fire.
âOf course we landed there after a four hour flight. They made tea for us. For the rest of my life, I could never forget the cup of tea I had there. This tea was so tasty, so good, âhe recalls.
He said local people gathered there and welcomed them.
âOur planes were repaired there,â he said.
âFrom there, we immediately returned to Ankara’s main base, Etimesgut. We also took a group photo there. Of course, we had some very moving moments, âhe said.
– Veterans Day
Colak said he called himself âFather Resatâ for his charitable nature, as he is committed to helping people without expecting anything in return.
However, he also expressed his disappointment at the lack of recognition and respect for veterans by the younger generation.
He said, âOn Veterans Day, I urge our people to love, respect and unite. “
Turkey celebrates Veterans Day every year on September 19, the day in 1921 when Mustafa Kemal AtatÃ¼rk – a revolutionary statesman, commander-in-chief and founder of the Turkish Republic – was awarded the titles of “Marshal” and ” veteran honored ‘titles by the Turkish parliament in recognition of his military leadership during the War of Independence.