On Friday, May 21st the Embassy of Hungary held an Armed Forces Day reception in recognition of the service and sacrifice of the members of the Hungarian Defense Force.

Ambassador Szemerkényi commemorates Army Day alongside Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy James J. TownsendThe Hungarian Embassy hosted a ceremony honoring the Hungarian Defense Force and the memory of its fallen service members on Friday, May 20th.

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Dr. Réka Semerkényi recalled the origins of Armed Forces Day in Hungary and how its roots can be traced back to 1849 when the newly formed Hungarian Armed Forces of the Revolution and Freedom Fight recaptured the castle in Budapest (and with it control of the nation).

Military Attaché Sándor Zsolt speaks before audience members on Armed Forces Day

In attendance were Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy, James J. Townsend, Major Generals John Harris and Patrick Murphy and the National Guard Bureau J5 Director. Representatives from the Department of State, FBI and CIA were also present with a guest list totaling approximately 80.

Speaking before audience members, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense James Townsend honored fallen members of the HDF as well as detailed at length the critical importance of U.S.-Hungarian military cooperation. Townsend also praised Hungary's continued commitment to the fight against terrorism and ISIS in the Middle East.

Military Attaché Sándor Zsolt is joined on stage by Major General John Harris, Assistant of the Ohio National Guard

Following fall of Communism and the establishment of a democratic Hungary, the Hungarian Defense Force undertook significant modernization efforts as well as marked increases in combat training, culminating with Hungary's decision to join NATO in 1999. Through the maintenance of NATO's heavy airlift capabilities at Papa Air Base Hungary now plays a vital role in the continuous maintenance of transatlantic security.

To this end, since 2006, Hungary has deployed in excess of 4000 troops to the stabilization effort in Afghanistan and 150 Hungarians are currently serving in the Iraqi province of Kurdistan in support of the international coalition against ISIL. Additional contingents of military advisers and counter IED specialist are also scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in the coming months and years. A total of 500 HDF soldiers are also currently deployed in Kosovo as part of the European peacekeeping mission KFOR.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense James J. Townsend offers a few remarks at the ceremony

To fulfill NATO commitments from last year until 2026, the Hungarian government also recently announced its intent to increase the defense budget by 0.1 percent of Hungary’s GDP each year. The increase in funding will provide additional resources for the ongoing improvements of the Papa Air Base.