Kowalik emigrated to the United States from Poland with his family in 1992 and attended Maine East High School in Park Ridge. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, he felt a patriotic duty to enlist in the Marines and was assigned to duty in Iraq in February, 2003. He never gained U.S. citizenship during his life.
“On what would have been his 22nd birthday, we’re here to pay tribute to the patriotism of Lance Cpl. Jakub Kowalik, who sacrificed as much as any U.S. citizen could be asked to sacrifice,” Quinn said. “Jakub Kowalik gave that ‘last full measure of devotion’ so eloquently stated by President Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address.”
Quinn was invited to attend the private ceremony by Jakob’s mother, Danuta. On National Gold Star Mothers’ Day, Quinn presented Danuta Kowalik with the “Gold Star Mother” Award.
“Lance Cpl. Kowalik served the United States people just as did another young military officer from Poland - Casimir Pulaski - who saved the American army at Brandywine and broke the British siege at Charleston,” Quinn noted. “Just as generations of Americans owe a debt to General Pulaski, today we all solemnly express our thanks to Lance Corporal Kowalik, our newest fellow citizen.”
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, about 38,000 troops – or 3 percent – of U.S. troops are not citizens.
Quinn has been active in a range of activities to help veterans and those who now serve in the military. He led the successful drive to set up the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund to assist the families of Illinois National Guard member and reservists who face economic hardship when the breadwinner is on active duty.
Quinn also established a website www.OperationHomeFront.org and toll-free hotline to
directly assist the families of National Guard members and reservists, and to inform the public of
ways to help. More than 2.4 million hits have been registered on www.OperationHomefront.org.