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A Day Devoted To Honoring Kosciuszko
A large group of Tadeusz Kościuszko devotees gathered at West Point (NY) on Saturday, April 27 to honor this great man whose democratic principles and compassion for the downtrodden of his age, and for all ages, has never been surpassed. All of nature joined in paying him homage. The weather was absolutely superb, trees and flowers were in bloom, birds sang in harmony and the river reflected the blue of the sky as it gently flowed by.
The day began, as is the custom, with Mass at the Catholic Chapel of the Holy Trinity. Reverend Carl Urban of Schenectady, assisted by Army Chaplain Brian Donahue, was the celebrant and he instilled in the congregants a sense of pride and respect for the hero of the day and for the two nations which meant so much to Kościuszko, i. e., his native Poland and the United States. U. S. Military Academy cadets, members of the Kosciuszko Squadron, acted as altar servers and ushers, and Aria of Wallington, NJ, a member chorus of the Polish Singers Alliance of America, enhanced the liturgy. Dawid Perkowski not only directed the choir, but was also organist and cantor.
After Mass, colorful flags and standards waved in the light breeze as the uniformed contingents led the congregation, at first, to The Plain to witness the Cadet Review, and then to the Kościuszko monument for the observance in a ceremony which has been ongoing since 1828. The navy blue and white of Liga Morska, the khaki of the Polish Army Veterans, the blue-gray of the Harcerze contrasted with the gray and white uniforms of the West Point cadets, just as they had in the chapel.
The ceremony at the monument was moving, as always. From the posting of the colors and singing of the Polish and American anthems to the retiring of the colors and singing of Marsz, Marsz, Polonia and God Bless America, each moment was an emotional one. Not for a second could one forget Kościuszko’s intelligence, capability, kindness and courage, nor the true dedication to the cause of liberty and freedom for all men that he espoused.
Father Urban’s spiritual invocation, James M. Johnson’s fascinating Remarks and Staś Radosz’s inspirational Salutation were greeted by an enrapt audience which encompassed pre-schoolers, young men and women of all ages, their parents and grandparents, and academics and military people (besides those from the academy) from almost all the Northeastern states and as far south as the District of Columbia.
Mr. Johnson is a retired Colonel of the U. S. Army and is Professor of History at Marist College and the Executive Director of the Hudson River Institute. His knowledge of the relationship between Kościuszko and West Point and the importance of the fortifications that Kościuszko had planned and built at West Point to the cause of the Colonists in the Revolution is unmatched. Each year’s main speaker at the observance sheds a new light on the man whose personality was so simple, yet so complicated, and Prof. Johnson more than met the challenge with new material.
The solemn and dramatic moments of the commemoration followed the speeches. Lt. Col. Michael E. Nowatkowski, Professor Johnson and Mr. Jarosz laid a wreath at the base of the Kościuszko Statue. Representatives of many organizations attending the ceremony followed suit. Immediately after, the U. S. Military Academy’s Firing Party followed with the Volley Firing of Honors, the Academy’s bugler played Taps, and a replica of Kościuszko’s sword was presented by Anthony J. Bajdek to graduating cadet Nicholas K. Burton of the Kosciuszko Squadron. Aria sang Marsz, Marsz, Polonia and finally, all participants joined them in singing God Bless America. Mr. Bajdek, who is president of the American Association of Friends of Kosciuszko at West Point, spoke a few words of thanks and extended the invitation for all to return on May 3, 2014 for next year’s ceremony.
While some hurried on to the scheduled luncheon at the Thayer Hotel to meet and thank the speakers and cadet members of the Kosciuszko Squadron and to hear a performance by the Aria chorus, others opted to enjoy their day by sight-seeing. They went to visit Kościuszko’s garden, the West Point museum, and the various chapels. Some, however, decided to picnic on the Hudson River banks to enjoy, while eating, the splendor of God’s creation while they contemplated the life and works of the man whose commemoration had brought them there, Tadeusz Kościuszko.
– Frances Gates
(Photo by Eugenia Gore)
In photo above: Wreath laying ceremony with Academy cadets and color guard (left of the statue) and Liga Morska member (at right).