Sunday 22 October 2017

President and Taoiseach join veterans in emotional tribute

Guards of honour at the National Commemoration Day in the Royal Hospital
Kilmainham by the Air Corps Photo: Doug O’Connor
Guards of honour at the National Commemoration Day in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham by the Air Corps Photo: Doug O’Connor
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

There was an impeccable silence across the courtyard of The Royal Kilmainham Hospital as hundreds of war veterans and their families remembered the fallen.

After a minute, the quiet was broken by the sound of cannon fire.

Soldiers who had served in conflicts from across the world came together to keep the memory of their fallen Irish comrades alive.

Among the 3,000 in attendance were scores of family members who lost loved ones in war.

"There were seven Irish priests killed in the Korean War. My uncle was one of them," said one lady who attended the event.

President Michael D Higgins led the National Day of Commemoration tributes, placing a large wreath at the centre courtyard, after he inspected a guard of honour.

Honour

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Health Minister Simon Harris, Junior Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Defence Minister Paul Kehoe were also in attendance.

President Michael D Higgins at the National Day of Commemoration in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. Picture: Doug O'Connor
President Michael D Higgins at the National Day of Commemoration in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. Picture: Doug O'Connor

The event was to honour all Irish who died in past wars, or on service with the United Nations.

Michael Noone (80) and Michael Coyne (72), two Vietnam War veterans, both taken into the US military after emigrating, were also among the attendees.

Mr Coyne, originally from Co Galway, won a Purple Heart for his service, having been wounded five times in action.

"I went to Chicago when I was 16, that was 1962 and I got drafted into the army when I was 20," he explained.

While in Vietnam in 1967, he served in a tank crew.

Alive

"I got wounded five times, I got malaria," he said.

"I got shrapnel wounds, I was hit by a bullet one time."

He said it was important to keep the memory of historical events alive.

"It's like a language, you keep it alive," he said.

Mr Noone, from Boyle, Co Roscommon, was in the US airforce.

"I was there for almost 30 years," he explained. "I went to America in 1957 and part of the procedure was you agreed to serve in the armed forces if you were drafted.

"I would have been drafted if I didn't enlist in the US airforce in 1958."

He served in Vietnam from October 1971 until October 1972.

"This is the right and proper thing to do, to honour our deceased Irish men and women who served in all sorts of wars," he said.

There was a religious element to the proceedings with leaders of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths reading prayers.

Events were also held in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Sligo, Kilkenny and Waterford.

Irish Independent

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