Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Army Specialist John Kulick

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist John Kulick, 35, of Harleysville, Pennsylvania.

Spc Kulick died in Bayji, Iraq, while investigating a rocket-propelled grenade incident a mine exploded and enemy forces attacked using small arms fire. He was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

John became a junior member at 16 years old at The Enterprise Fire Company of Hatboro in 1985. He rose up the ranks to Deputy Chief.

John was a member of Willow Grove and Warminster Fire Companies during his early years as a volunteer. He started his full time firefighting career at the Johnsville Naval Air Warfare Center before they were closed, he then transferred to Willow Grove Naval Air Station until he was hired at Whitpain Township Fire Department. He also worked part time at Horsham Fire Company. John loved the job, and considered the firehouse his second home. He was a mentor to many and left a lasting impression on all who met him.

We will all miss Johnny's smile and the great times which will be forever in our hearts.

John was not just a consummate professional, but an exceptional human being. He could walk into any room and it would immediately come alive. If you ever had the chance to meet him, within 10 minutes he would have left a lasting impression on you.

"Dad, things are really heating up here," the son said. He told his father where his last will and testament were, and that his papers were all in order.

"One thing he told me," said his father, "he wanted a full military funeral."

Then John had to get off the line. "I got to go, Dad," he told his father. "The Humvees are pulling out." They hung up.

"In a matter of 10 to 15 minutes," said his father, "he was dead."

Kulick, 34, was one of five members of his guard unit killed Tuesday when their convoy was attacked north of Baghdad.

One of those who died with him was his closest friend in Iraq, Philadelphia Police Officer Gennaro Pellegrini Jr.

In the phone call, Kulick had told his father that if something bad happened, the elder Kulick wouldn't get the news from television. Instead, there'd be a knock on his door. That knock came at 6 a.m. yesterday. "They woke me out of a sound sleep. It was a bad dream."

"I'm basically numb," his father said.

So were fellow members of the Whitpain Township Fire Department, who were grieving yesterday.

Although the department has a number of volunteer members, Kulick was one of four full-time firefighters and the most senior member.

He was popular, and also highly respected by those who worked with him.

Yesterday, they described him as an upbeat, high-energy guy who made people laugh, someone with a real passion for firefighting, and for doing things the right way.

"When you were in the room with him, he was the one who was the most professional," said Don Lynch, who along with Bob Gannon and Joelle Lesniake made up the team of four full-timers that considered themselves a close family.

"His uniform was pressed, his badge was on straight," said Lynch. If Kulick felt a tool wasn't properly placed on a firetruck, he would take the time to remount it.

"He was 100-percent professional," said Lynch.

After the 9/11 attacks, but before the war in Iraq, Kulick joined the National Guard. He had two reasons, his father said.

One was to use the additional income to buy things for his daughter, Amanda, who is now 8, and to eventually help pay for her college education.

Kulick, who was divorced, was absolutely devoted to his daughter, and took her fishing, to the firehouse to meet his friends, everywhere.

But he had another reason for joining, his father said: he felt that if it came to fighting terrorists, he wanted to do it in Iraq, not on U.S. soil.

"That 9/11 really set him off," said his father.

Lynch saw the same thing. "He took 9/11 a little harder than the rest of us. He really took it to heart. He wanted to do more than what he was just doing for the community."

Kulick's unit was sent to Iraq in December.

At first, he believed in the war. But then that changed.

"He had a lot of faith in the war when he went in," his father said. "But he lost that faith."

Kulick described to his father how the Americans would take over a town, but then as soon as they left, the insurgents would take it right back. And how he could no longer trust the women and children not to turn against them. "He said it was a big quagmire, and he couldn't wait to get out of it," his father said.

Kulick was also distressed that the military, despite promises, continued to send soldiers out on patrol in vehicles with makeshift armor, or no armor at all, his father said.

When he came home for two weeks earlier this summer, he told family and friends he didn't want to go back.

"He was scared stiff," his father said. "And he was a brave guy."

He told his father he hoped to be home by his birthday, November 17, but also admitted, in his darker moments, that he might not make it.

Said his father: "It was his fate to go to Iraq and die in the war."

Kulick, who was a medic as well as a firefighter in Whitpain Township, had spent the last several months as a fill-in medic for his unit in Iraq.

His father says he wouldn't be surprised if his son had been trying to help those wounded in the ambush when he was killed. That's the kind of soldier, and man, he was.

Army Specialist John Kulick was killed in action on 08/09/05.

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