George Sirian (1818-1891) was a Greek war orphan brought into the USA aboard the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides"). He served in the United States Navy with distinction for nearly fifty years, first as an ordinary seaman, and later as a master gunner and warrant officer.
Sirian's service included multiple tours on the USS Constitution during the first half of the 19th century. His technical expertise, dedication, and leadership remain an inspirational model for the Chief Petty Officers of today’s Navy. The George Sirian Meritorious Service Award, which the Navy awards to those who best exemplify surface warfare excellence, was named in his honor.
Sirian was the only man to serve aboard the Constitution on three separate tours of duty. Naval Museum exhibits about Sirian's life have been shown throughout the country.
Sirian was born in 1818 on the Greek island of Psara. During the Greek War of Independence, at age six, he witnessed the slaughter of his native Greek countrymen at the hands of Ottoman Turks. His mother was able to rescue him by placing him on a boat which was heading out to sea, escaping the onslaught of Ottoman troops, before she was killed herself.
Rescued by United States Navy observers sent there by President James Monroe, the young refugee spent the next three years serving as either a cabin boy or powder monkey. This way the crew was able to keep him aboard with unofficial duties until he was of legal age to enlist in the Navy on his own. In these unofficial positions, Sirian was able to enlist in the American Navy a few years later aboard the USS Constitution, which had periodically patrolled the area for years. The ship had been near Chios during the earlier part of the fighting between the Turks and Greeks. Its captain had orders not to interfere in the Greek struggle with the Ottoman Turks and was not allowed to shelter refugees. The only way that Sirian could remain aboard was by joining the United States Navy.
He remained in the American Naval Forces for 53 years - possibly the second-longest term of enlistment in U.S. history. (The longest serving enlisted military man was Chief Torpedoman Harry Simmon Morris, who served 55 years on active duty.) During the American Civil War Sirian distinguished himself as a gunnery instructor at the United States Naval Academy.
He died in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1891.
- Turkish Stone Shot, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, NNSY website. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
- George Sirian Meritorious Service Award, Surface Navy Association. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
- Maps of George Sirian's Travels, georgesirian.com. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
- Children of the Chios Massacre (PDF file). Retrieved 9 November 2008.