WASHINGTON Finally, Gen. Casimir Pulaski became an American, 230 years after the Polish nobleman died in Georgia fighting for what became the United States.
President Barack Obama signed a joint resolution today of the Senate and the House of Representatives that made Pulaski an honorary citizen.
Pulaski's contribution to the Americans' 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, whose home city of Cleveland, Ohio, has many citizens of Polish extraction, had been pushing for the honorary citizenship since 2005.
"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, who told 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 join 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, was wounded and taken aboard the American ship USS Wasp. He died at sea two days later.
Americans have honored Pulaski throughout their two centuries. Counties and streets are named for him, and a statue of Pulaski stands in Buffalo, New York, which has a large Polish population. 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 erected in honor of Pulaski, and in 1825 it finally was erected in Savannah, Georgia.