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An American Marine

During a time when we give a deceased civilian military honors because his brother is Howard Dean, this story is a much needed boost.

Via the Chicago Tribune: U.S. gives fallen Marine `special gift'--citizenship

Danuta Kowalik clutched a framed certificate that officially granted her son, Lance Cpl. Jakub Kowalik, something that, in her eyes, he had already earned--American citizenship.

"Citizenship for Jakub was a special thing because he dreamed of it," Danuta Kowalik of Schaumburg said Tuesday, on what would have been her son's 22nd birthday. "It was like a special gift I got for my son today. I'm sure he's smiling now."

Jakub Kowalik, who immigrated with his family to Chicago in 1992 from Poland, had planned to obtain his American citizenship as soon as he got back from fighting in Iraq.

The 21-year-old Marine never returned.

He was killed May 12 in Iraq when ordnance he was handling exploded.

In a ceremony Tuesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services completed Kowalik's last mission by granting him American citizenship posthumously.

"I think that when someone gives their life for our country, they certainly should be citizens," said Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who attended the ceremony. "I think Jakub is in that great tradition of patriots who believed in liberty, freedom and democracy."

President Bush signed an executive order to the Immigration and Nationality Act on July 3, 2002, that expedites the posthumous citizenship process for military personnel. About 3 percent of all U.S. troops are not citizens, and the posthumous granting of American citizenship is rare, said Donald Monica, interim director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Chicago.

Moving to Chicago at age 10 wasn't easy for Kowalik. His father died a few years after the family arrived, leaving his mother to care for him and his older brother, Paul.

Mastering English proved to be the most difficult.

"He almost cried coming home from school every day because he said, `I don't know what they're saying,'" his mother recalled.

But Danuta Kowalik, who has obtained her citizenship, said her son grew to love everything about America.

Shortly after graduating from Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Jakub told his mother he planned to join the Marines, partly to help pay for college.

"I was furious," she said of her son's decision. "I was very unhappy. It took me a long time. ... I couldn't accept it.

"Always I was scared," she said.

Kowalik said she tried to persuade her son to leave the military when there was talk of a war after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"I never supported the war. War is the worst thing," she said.

"I don't think he considered war a reality. Like most of us, we ... don't think about war. We think about happiness. We think about having a good life."

Jakub Kowalik, a member of the 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group, was based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., before being deployed to Iraq in February. Only once did he mention what might happen if he were killed, his mother said.

"He said, `Mom, they will come to your door if something bad happens to me,'" Danuta Kowalik said. "When the war started, people would ask me, `How do you feel? How can you handle it? And I would say, `Since I don't see Marines by my door, I'm fine.' And one day it happened. They came. I didn't believe it. I think I still have a hard time believing it happened."

But on Tuesday, she stood up straight displaying the certificate of American citizenship that she knew her son would have held dear.

"This is special," she said choking back tears, "a very special day."

Rest In Peace and Semper Fi, my American brother, Semper Fi...