General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired earlier this week after 41 year of service in the US military.
In addition to his military skill and wise leadership, Dempsey, 63, who held the highest ranking military officer post since 2011, is best known for two other qualities: his pride in his Irish heritage and his wonderful singing voice.
At the close of his retirement ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson, after his son, Army Captain Chris Dempsey, read his retirement order, and after heartfelt remarks from President Obama and Secretary of Defense Carter Ash, General Dempsey took the microphone to sing that haunting Irish melody of farewell, “The Parting Glass.”
You might be familiar with Glen Hansard’s pared down version of the song, or with Celtic Woman’s rendition, but take a few minutes to listen to General Dempsey’s, which includes verses not always sung.
In a touching gesture, he stops singing before the song is over and walks away to be embraced by his adorable grandchildren as the chorus continues on, offering a final salute.
Earlier songs on the program by the army band included both "Ellis Island" and Christy Moore's "The Voyager."
Dempsey’s family hails from Donegal. His grandfather, John Óg Devenney, originally came from Ranafast, a Gaeltacht (Irish language speaking) part of Donegal. He left his hometown in 1926, boarding a train at Crolly and going to the port at Derry, where he boarded a ship, The Cameronia, bound for New York, the website Donegal Diaspora explains.
Dempsey spent every summer of his youth learning Irish in Ranafast and many of his relatives, with whom General Dempsey keeps in touch, live in the area.
His family hopes that he will visit Donegal now that he has retired, and that the Irish government will recognize him.
His cousin Donnchadh Devenney told Donegal TV, “His grandfather left the old train station in Crolly with four of his friends to find a better life in America and they were played off by the local Ranafast band which they were members of. It’s great to see that something good came of it and that an Irishman and the rest of his family have done so well for themselves.”
Dempsey's sucessor, General Joseph Dunford, is also a proud Irish Catholic.