Mourners attend funeral of 'unknown' soldier after plea from ex-comrades
HE died an "unknown soldier" but his passing reunited him with the wider family of military peacekeepers who mourned him as one of their own.
Peter Comerford (75), who served with the 5th battalion of the Defence Forces and who lived through the horrors of the UN peacekeeping mission to Congo in the 1960s, died in Dublin on Monday following a long illness.
Born in north inner-city Dublin, he spent 15 years in the Army and is thought to have served in at least two overseas missions.
Initially no relatives could be traced and a plea was sent out by the Irish Defence Forces Veterans' Association following his death, asking members "who had a bit of time to spare to honour a fallen comrade" to attend his funeral.
Following the plea, a congregation of around 100 people attended the requiem Mass, which was marked with all the pomp and ceremony due to one who had risked his life for the cause of peace.
Among them were members of the Defence Forces, both serving and retired; the Air Corps; Navy, gardai and members of the prison service, who had responded to the notice.
In the end, Mr Comerford's daughter Mary, granddaughter Charlene and her son Christian (7) – Mr Comerford's great-grandson – were tracked down and attended the ceremony at St Agnes's Church, Crumlin.
Neighbours from Clonmacnoise Grove in Crumlin where Mr Comerford had lived were present, together with his friend Declan Ronan, area housing manager with Dublin City Council, who was with him when he died.
He described Mr Comerford as a "very, very bright man and a gentleman".
He added: "He was a beautiful writer and his life was the Army – he spoke of nothing else."
Mr Comerford's granddaughter Charlene revealed that he had been a father of five and his former wife, Doreen, is currently in hospital.
The poignant lament of a lone piper accompanied the coffin, which was draped in the Tricolour, from the church for removal to Mount Jerome crematorium in nearby Harold's Cross.
But beforehand, Paul Clarke, of the Veterans' Association, recited a poem entitled 'Soldier', written by Vietnam veteran, George L Skypeck:
"I was that which others did not want to be.
I went where others feared to go, and did what others failed to do I asked nothing from those who gave nothing and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness... should I fail.
I have seen the face of terror; felt the stinging cold of fear; and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moment's love.
I have cried, pained, and hoped... but most of all, I have lived times others would say were best forgotten.
At least someday I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was... a soldier."