Saturday March 10th saw the official opening of the Irish Veterans’ Museum at the Glen, Kinsale. The Museum contains the only Medal of Honor on display outside the United States and details the extraordinary stories of the Irish Medal of Honor recipients. It is the highest award of valour in action that can be bestowed upon a member of the armed forces of the United States. Only 3500 Medals of Honour have been awarded since 1863, incredibly over 2100 of these Medals were received by people of Irish Heritage and at least 258 went to Irish-born servicemen.
This exhibition tells the stories of the brave Irishmen who received this award over the past 155 years but it centres around the Medal of Honor received by Michael Gibbons, born and raised in Co Mayo. He emigrated, joined the US Navy and was decorated for heroism under fire off the coast of Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Amazingly, a fellow Mayo-man, a US Marine named Philip Gaughan, was in the same small boat during the action, and he also received the Medal of Honor.
Irish Veterans was borne out of the efforts of Dubliner Declan Hughes to identify those Irish-born who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. At the beginning of his work only one Irish individual was known; this figure has now risen to thirty-two. Declan’s work resulted in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund sending their ½ scale travelling replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall to Ireland, where An Taoiseach laid a wreath in memory of the Irish. The Charity, founded following this event, has benefited from the efforts of industrious Board Members such as the late Brendan Dodd and late John Hawkins, Ron Howko and Mike and Libby Coyne. In recent years it has benefitted from the vision of James Sikora, a Corkman and US Army veteran, who has been working towards the establishment of an international-standard Irish Veterans Heritage Centre to be located in Kinsale. This Medal of Honor exhibition is a small step towards that goal.
In 2015 Irish Veterans Chapter #1 was dedicated at The White House, Kinsale, and named for Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael Murphy, a Medal of Honor recipient. The Chapter was opened in the presence of His Excellency Kevin O’Malley, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, and members of Michael’s family, including his parents Dan and Maureen.
Internationally-renowned historian and author Damian Shiels will be the Museum Manager/Curator.
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Pictured are Jeff Falkel (former US Army Green Beret), Dianne Falkel (US Air Force Veteran), and Nick Collier (Irish-born helicopter pilot, Vietnam Veteran), cutting the ribbon to mark the official opening of Irish Veterans Medal of Honor Exhibition, Kinsale on 10 March 2018. Photo: Dermot Ryan