The funeral of Gen. Aleksander Einseln, the first chief of the Estonian Defence Forces following the restoration of Estonia's independence in 1991, was held in Tallinn on Friday.
"Gen. Einseln was a person with an extraordinary fate," said Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Gen. Riho Terras in his eulogy. "How else could one possibly describe a warrior who as a boy saw his fatherland fall into the hands of foreign occupiers, began a new life as a refugee in the free world and stood in arms for his new homeland in the Korean War and twice in the Vietnam War. In both cases he faced the same evil ideology which had smothered the independence of his own country."
Terras recalled that Einseln was the one who laid the foundation for Estonian troops' participation in foreign missions as he clearly understood that the values which Estonia sought to share with its friends and allies were measurable in concrete contributions as well. "The Estonian soldier has been one of the country's best ambassadors and guardians of its interests as thanks to our participation in missions, we are trustworthy and our word is worth something," he said. "For this, too, I want to thank Aleksander today, before his final journey."
In addition to family and loved ones, Friday's serivce was also attended by President Kersti Kaljulaid, President Arnold Rüütel, President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor, Chairman of the National Defence Committee Hannes Hanso, Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna, Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Gen. Riho Terras, Commander of the Estonian Defence League Brig. Gen. Meelis Kiili as well as the leadership of the Estonian Defence Forces. The Guard Battalion in in its entirety lined up in front of St. John's Church as well.
Following the ceremony at the church, a memorial service was also held at the Defence Forces Cemetery of Tallinn, where color guards from the Estonian Defence Forces, its subunits and the Estonian Defence League likewise participated.
Einseln will be buried alongside fellow veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars at Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington.
From refugee to commander of the Estonian Defence Forces
Einseln was born on Oct. 25, 1931 in Tallinn. He and his mother fled Estonia in 1944, initially to Germany before arriving in the U.S. in 1949. From 1951-1985, he served in the U.S. Army, where he also fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
In 1993, on the request of President Lennart Meri, Einseln returned to Estonia to serve as Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces from May 1993 through December 1995.
Einseln was one of just four officers of the Estonian Defence Forces to date to be promoted to the rank of general, along with Gens. Johan Laidoner (1884-1953), Ants Laaneots (1948-) and Riho Terras (1967-).
He died on March 16, aged 85.
Editor: Aili Vahtla