This past August I attended services for Specialist John Kulick of Alpha Co, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division, PA National Guard killed in action in Iraq. Taps was played–a tune that is probably the most famous, dolorous, 24 notes ever played. However, before it was, there was a mile long procession of fire engines–one of which served as a bier. A Humvee in the procession contained three passengers. The fourth spot-–the one next to the driver–was empty, his name taped to the windshield.
A fireman for the Centre Square Fire Department, Kulick volunteered to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was killed in action in Iraq along with some of his buddies last August.
Motivated by the events of September 11, Kulick volunteered, and believed in, Operation Iraqi Freedom because, as Thomas Paine wrote, “It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending. …We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in. In such a case we are sure that we are right; and we leave to you the despairing reflection of being the tool of a miserable tyrant."
While stationed in Iraq, Kulick’s attitude, newspaper accounts have stated, changed. No longer was September 11 the only motivation, there was now a motivation borne of relationships with Iraqi youngsters. Kulick wrote in an email sent August 4, “The kids love us.”
It was ironic that Kulick liked the Iraqi kids and they liked him and his colleagues. The irony is that the person who killed Specialist John Kulick was probably trained to kill him from the time he was a kid.
While American kids join the Boy Scouts, Iraqi kids were forced to join the Ashbal Saddam or Saddam Lion Cubs. According to the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights (IFHR), Saddam’s security police took boys–as young as 6–from their families and placed them into indoctrination programs.
The IFHR stated that while at these training facilities they were beaten, forced to kill animals and indoctrinated with Baathist Party propaganda. They graduated at about age 10 schooled in the use of small arms and basic infantry tactics.
The Ashbal Saddam was essentially the junior Fedayeen Saddam (Saddam’s Men of Sacrifice) or Fedayeen Militia. The Fedayeen was a paramilitary organization controlled by Saddam’s eldest son Uday. It was an internal security service Hussein employed to terrorize Iraqis and eliminate any dissent.
These Fedayeen are now the leaders of the current insurgency. Just as the Werewolves–who were the remnants of the Nazis–formed an insurgency after World War II to re-establish the Third Reich, so too are the Fedayeen intent on reinstituting the Baathist tyranny. One of the reasons the Fedayeen was so dangerous during the war was because they blended into the civilian population. Indeed, they used civilians as shields.
These are the backgrounds of the people who are currently killing American soldiers, Iraqis soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and foreign civilians. This is the legacy of the Baathists.
They are not patriots comparable to the American Minutemen as some have said. They were weaned in a system of killing for their dictator and for their tyrannical Baathist ideology from the time they were 6 years old.
Until the people who established the system, which trained six year olds for war, is eradicated there will be other brave and noble soldiers like John Kulick killed. Others will be sacrificed until Iraqi young people learn to play with toys instead of weapons, learn how to play soccer instead of learning how to be a suicide bomber.
This is what John Kulick wanted to do. He wanted to help Iraqi kids be kids. “I say to you in all sadness of conviction to think great thoughts you must be heroes as well as idealists.” Kulick was obviously both.
He wrote in that same August 4 he email, five days before he was killed in action, “I think that the world is a much better place without Saddam. Someone needs to be the Police in this world and the only superpower is us. The 1,800 soldiers did not die in vain, and the war was justified. People don’t know the true stories of the horror the Iraq people endured under Saddam and the Baathist party."
The Martyr of Bunker Hill, Dr. Joseph Warren, said, "You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves." Kulick was worthy not only of himself, he was worthy of all free people everywhere.
Taps has been sounded for John Kulick–a dirge that has been described as the saddest 24 notes ever written. Indeed it is.
The taps reminds us that, "It is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."
John Kulick’s legacy is that of a noble man, a free man, freely choosing to risk his life, to ensure that others will live free. This is the greatest of all legacies.