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Honoring a Revolutionary War hero on Casimir Pulaski Day in Chicago

Chicago celebrates Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski Day
Chicago celebrates Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski Day 02:31

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The state and the city of Chicago marked Casimir Pulaski Day on Monday with a celebration at the Polish Museum of America in Noble Square.

The holiday honors the Polish Revolutionary War general who died fighting for America's freedom.

"He was banished after several attempts to overthrow the Polish government at that time and was unsuccessful," said Richard Owsiany, the Polish Museum of America president. "(He) lent his hands, came to America, came to George Washington, and said, 'I'm here to volunteer.' Was made a brigadier general and then fought in many battles."

"It's a special occasion to always do something like this, to be part of it. The flowers represent the fact of his passing, and we will never forget. Flowers are life, and he's always alive in our hearts," said Chris Karpiesiuk of the Polish Soldiers Society, whose members laid a wreath as part of the ceremony.

Owsiany said former governor Dan Walker in 1973 first honored Pulaski, recognizing both the Father of the American Cavalry and the contributions Polish Americans have made to the state and the nation.

"In 1986, Governor James Thompson signed legislation, making the first Monday of March an official Illinois Holiday, commemorating Pulaski," Owsiany said. 

Chicago also made it a holiday the same year. 

City government offices were closed, but Chicago Public Schools students were in session. Owsiany said legislation changed that 15 years ago.

"Unfortunately, the legislature felt that it might be better for children to be at home and learn about Pulaski than not be in school. It was something that the legislatures felt was important, and to this day, schools are still in session on Pulaski Day," he said. 

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