Brigadier General John Kulhavi 06.24.10

During the filming of Detroit: Our Greatest Genration, the Visionalist crew has met many heroes.  We’ve met men who survived Iwo Jima, nurses who served near the front lines at Normandy, and we’ve interviewed both men and women who served under fire, and equally, those who did their duty behind the scenes as support troops.  Our deepest gratitude is extended.

And then there’s John Kulhavi.

Mr. Kulhavi, who retired from the  Army Reserve at the rank of Brigadier General,  is currently serving as Senior Vice President of investments for Merrill Lynch in Farmington Hills.  In most ways, he defines the term ‘hero’.

Currently a member of Merrill Lynch’s ‘Circle of Champions’, Kulhavi  has settled into the top one percent of the firm’s financial advisors.  A ROTC Hall of Fame member, Kulhavi has been ranked among America’s Top 100 Brokers by Barron’s for the last five years, and his team of specialists has been named three times to Research magazine’s list of America’s Top Financial Advisory Teams.

His commitment to education is unparalleled: Following his graduation from Central Michigan University in 1965, he has remained involved with the university, serving as a member of the development board and the business advisory committee for the College of Business Administration, and provides scholarships each year to ROTC cadets. 

In Vietnam, General Kulhavi  served two tours of duty.  Entering in 1970, General Kulhavi was promoted to flight leader within five months, leading ten helicopter crews into numerous encounters.  His most heroic mission, no doubt, was in Cambodia, when he flew behind enemy lines to retrieve five soldiers being held prisoner by the North Vietnamese.  They were members of a unit that had been overrun by North Vietnamese infantry, and most of the patrol was killed, execution-style, by the time the intelligence filtered through to Kulhavi, but  there was never a thought of not mounting a rescue operation.

“If you made no attempt to get them out,” he says with the passion of a leader who understands his ultimate responsibility to those under his command, “how would other infantrymen feel going into combat knowing that if they were captured, no one would make an attempt to rescue them?”

The mission was successful, and General Kulhavi was able to extract the men.

This riveting story is told in full in Our Vietnam Generation.

In the course of duty, General Kulhavi received 43 awards, including the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, 22 Awards of the Air Medal, and three Meritorious Service Medals. 

His final assessement of his service is remarkably down to earth, and certainly a nod to all veterans of Vietnam:  “Any success I may have achieved in my life I attribute to the teamwork and goal-oriented nature of my experience on active duty in Vietnam.”

This has become our definition of ‘hero’; a man who has served his country in combat, and has returned to serve his country and the children which will be our ultimate future.


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