Illinois celebrates Casimir Pulaski Day

Monday was Casimir Pulaski Day across Illinois, commemorating the Polish war hero who played a significant role in America's pursuit of freedom.

Observed on the first Monday of March in Illinois, the day honors Pulaski's contributions to defending freedom, first in Poland and then in the American Revolutionary War. Born on March 6, 1745, in Poland, Pulaski fought against both the Russians and the British.

After a failed attempt to end Russian influence in Poland forced him into exile, Pulaski eventually found himself in France, where he met Benjamin Franklin. Franklin recruited Pulaski to join the revolutionary cause, and Pulaski went on to save George Washington's life in 1777. He later became the first commander of the American cavalry but died shortly after being wounded in battle against the British.

"We come to honor a man who came to the United States and fought on our side for freedom and liberty which we enjoy today, and of course, that was Casimir Pulaski," said Senator Dick Durbin.

The first official celebration of Pulaski Day was presided over by then-Chicago Mayor Harold Washington in 1986, with then-Governor Jim Thompson signing Pulaski Day into law.

In 2009, then-President Barack Obama signed a joint resolution of the Senate and House, making Casimir Pulaski an honorary US citizen.