On May 6, 2023, USMA conducted the annual Kościuszko Memorial Ceremony at the Kościuszko Monument. Commandant of Cadets BG Mark Quander ’95 participated in the ceremony along with the Polish and Lithuanian Ambassadors to the United States. The ceremony was the highlight of two days of events honoring the American Revolutionary War Hero who fortified West Point and defended the Hudson River against British attack.
The day before the ceremony, the American Association of the Friends of Kosciuszko at West Point Inc. (AAFKWP) held their annual conference at the Thayer Hotel. This year’s theme was “Celebrating Kościuszko at West Point: Honoring the Life and Legacy of Thaddeus Kosciuszko” and the event marked the 20th anniversary of the association. COL Sean Sculley from the USMA Department of History provided opening remarks. AAFKWP EVP LTC (R) Steve Olejasz ’90 then read a letter from former Superintendent LTG (R) Dave R. Palmer ’56 honoring Kościuszko and commending the association for its accomplishments.
Conference speakers included a Kościuszko biographer, AAFKWP members who discussed the development and achievements of the organization, past and current OICs of the Cadet Kościuszko Squadron who covered the founding and current activities of the cadet club, and a Polish Security Analyst who provided an update on the war in Ukraine. COL Jason Perez ’97, gave an update on the Kościuszko Monument renovation which is being restored thanks to WPAOG and Margin of Excellence funds. The conference concluded with remarks via Zoom from Polish BG Tomasz Kowalik ’99 who is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Support of NATO Multinational Corps Northeast.
AAFKWP supports USMA’s annual ceremony by coordinating participants and conducting the conference and other events. Polish Ambassador Marek Magierowski and Lithuanian Ambassador Audra Plepyte participated in all the Saturday events which included Mass at Most Holy Trinity Chapel, the Cadet Review, the Kościuszko Memorial Ceremony, and a luncheon. Chaplain COL (R) Matt Pawlikowski ’86 celebrated Mass and delivered the invocation at the memorial ceremony.
The Ambassadors were seated in the Superintendent’s Review Box and recognized during the Cadet Review. The Cadet Drill Team performed before the parade and after the parade there was a Cadet Parachute Team demonstration.
The Kościuszko Memorial Ceremony marked the first time that the Polish and Lithuanian Ambassadors participated together. This brought together three NATO Allies to honor a common hero. The ambassadors gave remarks and participated in the wreath laying as Kościuszko received full military honors.
After the ceremony, the AAFKWP hosted 100 attendees for lunch at the Thayer Hotel. The ambassadors gave laudatory remarks and the CIC of the Cadet Kościuszko Squadron Lane Zuchowski ’23 gave an overview of the club’s yearly activities. highlighting their Spring Break trip to Poland which was coordinated by the AAFKWP. Squadron member Hannah Lamb ’23 gave an overview on her Firstie project that constructed an observation area in the Kosciuszko Garden.
The highlight of the luncheon was the presentation of Certificates of Appreciation from Superintendent LTG Steve Gilland ’90 to AAFKWP board members. The certificates noted the association’s dedication to the annual Kosciuszko Memorial Ceremony and support for the Academy, the Corps of Cadets, and the West Point community.
According to LTC (R) Steve Olejasz ’90, who has been involved in the annual ceremony for over 20 years, when he first served as the officer in charge of the event as an instructor in the Department of History, the American Association of the Friends of Kosciuszko at West Point was specifically founded to support the annual ceremony. But in the 20 years since, they have expanded their efforts to support Polish and Lithuanian Exchange Cadets, the activities of the Cadet Kościuszko Squadron club, and broader US relations with Poland and Lithuania. Olejasz, who travels and speaks frequently in Poland and Lithuania, personally coordinates the annual participation of foreign diplomats and military officers at the ceremony and conference at West Point. In 2021 he was awarded the Cavalier’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by the Polish President Andrzej Duda. The award is presented to foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to international cooperation and bonds between Poland and their country.
Next year’s Kościuszko memorial events are scheduled for May 4-5, 2024.