WASHINGTON – Finally, Gen. Casimir Pulaski became an American citizen on Friday, 230 years after the Polish nobleman died fighting for the as yet-unborn United States.
President Barack Obama signed a joint resolution of the Senate and the House that made Pulaski an honorary citizen.
Pulaski's contribution to the American colonies' effort to leave the British Empire began with a flourish. He wrote a letter to Gen. George Washington, the Revolution's leader, with the declaration: "I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it."
Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Polish-American, had been pushing for the honorary citizenship since 2005. He lives in Cleveland, which has many other citizens of Polish extraction.
"Pulaski made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, and he deserves nothing but the highest honor and recognition for his service," Kucinich said then.
Washington had heard of the young Pole from Benjamin Franklin, an urbane traveler who had been Washington's first ambassador to France. Franklin told Washington of Pulaski's exploits that had made him "renowned throughout Europe for the courage and bravery he displayed in defense of his country's freedom."
The revolutionaries' top general let the young nobleman hire onto the brash fight against the European superpower, and Pulaski made a name for himself as a skilled horseman, eventually to be known as the "father of the American cavalry."
He died before the British were driven away. In October 1779, he led a cavalry assault to save the important Southern port of Savannah, Ga., was wounded and taken aboard the American ship USS Wasp. He died at sea two days later.
Americans have honored Pulaski throughout the last two centuries. Counties and streets are named for him.
In 1929 Congress declared Oct. 11 to be Pulaski Day in the United States, a largely forgotten holiday in much of the country. The Continental Congress suggested that a monument be erected in honor of Pulaski, and in 1825 it finally was erected in Savannah.