October 11 – General Pulaski Memorial Day

Posted on October 11, 2014

This is a patriotic U.S. holiday that honors a hero of the American Revolution. It is held on my birthday every year to commemorate this hero's death on this date in 1779. And it is an occasion of pride for Polish Americans.

And I am embarrassed to tell you that I've never heard about General Pulaski, or his holiday, before!

General Kazimierz (or Casimir) Pulaski was a Polish nobleman who became a soldier and a military commander. He was involved in an uprising against Russia's dominance of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; but when the uprising failed, Pulaski was driven into exile. He somehow communicated with Benjamin Franklin, who recommended that Pulaski emigrate to North America to help with a little uprising known as the American Revolutionary War.

So Pulaski did.

Pulaski became a general in the Continental Army, and he created a cavalry unit and reshaped the entire American cavalry. (Cavalry is a group of soldier or warriors who fight while mounted on horseback.) For this reason, Pulaski is known as the “father of the American cavalry.”

Here's another little thing—a brave thing—that Pulaski did: he saved George Washington's life!

This is how that happened: When Pulaski first arrived at the 13 colonies, he was appointed commander of George Washington's personal bodyguard force. The British broke through American lines and started straight for Washington. (Mind you, this is Pulaski's very first engagement within the American Revolutionary War, and he was still wearing the military dress uniform of the Polish hussars!) Pulaski bravely led the 30-man bodyguard unit straight into combat, and Pulaski was wounded, but Washington was saved!

Another thing that Pulaski did: he died in the course of the war....dying, I guess you could say, for someone else's country. The details of his burial are uncertain, but there have been memorials and monuments to him in the U.S. and Poland – and counties, towns, streets, parks, and bridges named after him. I would like to think that, if I lived back east, or if I were Polish American, I would know all about Pulaski!

By the way...

The honors just keep rolling in. Not only did an even more famous Revolutionary War hero, Marquis de Lafayette, personally lay the cornerstone for a monument to Pulaski in Savannah, Georgia, and a bust of Pulaski was placed on display in the U.S. Capitol in 1867, not only did Congress pass a resolution making today a holiday in Pulaski's honor in 1929, and Pulaski's supposed remains were reinterred with full military honors in 2005 – but in 2009 Congress passed a joint resolution making Pulaski an honorary citizen of the U.S., and President Barack Obama signed it into law.

There have been only seven people who have ever been made an honorary citizen!

Also on this date:

Educator Salman Khan

Mathematician Lewis F. Richards's birthday

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