The Heart of a Lion - the Love of a Brother

The Commandant of the U.S. Army War College Pennsylvania, Major-General David Huntoon Jr, shakes hands with
Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke in front of the plaque at the Memorial Dedication

A fitting epitaph for Lieutenant General Parami Kulatunge, bestowed on him at an inspiring and poignant Memorial Dedication at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on October 11, 2006.

Lieutenant General Kulatunge, third in command in Sri Lanka’s army, was assassinated when a LTTE suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorbike onto his car during the morning rush hour in the suburbs of Colombo, on June 26, 2006.

The late Lieutenant General Parami Kulatunge’s colleagues of the Class of 2003 at the U.S. Army War College, Pennsylvania
at the Memorial in front of the plaque

The Memorial Dedication was a tribute by the U.S. Army War College to Lieutenant General Kulatunge, a deeply respected alumnus. It was initiated by the late General’s colleagues of the Class of 2003 at the War College, who remember him as a student among them in the US three years ago, and whose warm, unassuming ways won him a place in their hearts. That his untimely death deeply affected them was apparent. Underlying the simplicity of the event was spontaneity of expression that could only come from deep within. The Memorial had overtones of almost tangible sadness and pathos, as memories translated into colorful anecdotes filled with warmth and humor.

Captain Albert Lord, who enunciated the Prelude and who served as anchor for the programme, created the ambience through his eloquence, paving the way for a poignant and uplifting ceremony.

Colonel Chip Dever, who had known the General closely during the study tour at War College spoke with depth of feeling, leaving the audience teary-eyed. "As a friend you did those little things that true friends never forget. I forgot your birthday, but when I was in Iraq, you remembered mine - twice." He recounted with affection their many encounters. "Even now, in speaking of them, the picture of a smile and a bear hug come to me, both of which are eclipsed in size and warmth by the heart of the lion which contained them." The tribute he paid the General as a soldier was equally profound. "Your sacrifice is a constant reminder of the sacrifice throughout the history of dedicated soldiers, who put service to country and the preservation of peace and freedom above all else. Today we stand before you to tell you that it is soldiers like you that make us proud to serve, and prouder still to say that we knew you well enough to call you friend."

Mr. Theodore Smith, who was the community sponsor for the General during his stay at War College, also paid a very passionate tribute. He said, "The LTTE killed a man who helped to build bridges between the Sinhalese and the Tamils." Having known the decency and innate humanity of the man, Mr. Smith was deeply critical of the LTTE for "murdering an exceptional officer." He commended Sri Lanka for acting with such restraint in the face of such brutal provocation. Even as he remembered the officer, who served his country so selflessly, with hope and optimism about the peace process, he was reminded of Parami, the gentleman who reveled in being a family man, in enjoying the simple pleasures of life like the blaring of a train’s horn as it rushed on its way, expressing his joy through his hearty sincere laughter and the merry twinkle in his eye. In fact, the officers all agreed that the photograph of a beaming General Kulatunge in civilian attire was more the man they knew than the serious-faced officer in uniform in the official photograph.

Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke pays tribute to the late General at the Memorial Dedication

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in the US, Mr. Bernard Goonetilleke, who spoke at the Memorial, gave a historical perspective to General Kulatunge’s assassination by dwelling on the deviousness and deception the LTTE has indulged in since the Ceasefire Agreement, and referred to recent LTTE assassinations or near-assassinations in Sri Lanka.

The Commandant of the U.S. Army War College Pennsylvania, Major-General David Huntoon Jr, pays tribute to the
late General at the Memorial Dedication

The Commandant of the Army War College, Major-General David Huntoon Jr, who wrapped up the tributes, said that the Memorial was being held in honor of the service and sacrifice of General Kulatunge. Describing him as "a soldier, scholar and statesman with love for country and friends," "a leader of moral and physical courage with courage and compassion," who “inspired all he served with,” Major-General Huntoon appreciated General Kulatunge’s lifelong commitment to serve Sri Lanka, his profound understanding of the conflict situation and his “determination to make positive change." He added the dimension of the global fight against terrorism with his focus on "reaffirming our collaborative resolve and common purpose to defeat terrorists wherever they are."

In an atmosphere charged with emotion, the melancholy notes of Taps seemed a fitting finale to the tributes. This was followed by the unveiling of a plaque with names of fallen heroes from the Army War College alumni inscribed. The latest name added on the list was Lieutenant General Parami Kulatunge. An honorable officer "with the heart of a lion." The officers vowed fervently, "He will always be in our hearts," even as they resolved to have his photograph displayed permanently in the lecture room.

The Memorial Dedication at the US War College was a tribute to an honorable, warm and unassuming human being who had crossed the lines of race and nationality to touch hearts and lives. In the larger sense, it is a deeper bonding of two nations that value freedom, peace and democracy with a common resolve to fight terrorism wherever it exists.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

12 October 2006

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