Vietnam vets Matthew Carroll and Brian McDonnell are leading a project to build a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Ennis. It has been their dream to see a memorial erected so that 29 Irish veterans who died will be remembered. (names at the bottom)
The Ennis Town Council agreed to the project in December of 2012 and said, “The proposed memorial is dedicated to those Irish who served and lost their lives during military service in Southeast Asia and is not a war memorial. It is not a judgement on the rights and wrongs of war but is a focus on creating a space for reflection for families of Irish men and women who served in allied military service in Southeast Asia.”
The Vietnam Veteran Memorial aims to remember and honor veterans. More than 2,500 Irish-born served in Southeast Asia. Some of them joined to fight against Communism and protect freedoms. Others were drafted after they had obtained a green card for employment purposes. Many of them served with Americans and some with Australians.
Twenty-nine died during their service. Ireland was neutral during the war and in Ireland, the Vietnam War was unpopular. There were protests in the Dail and pickets at the U.S. Embassy.
The Ennis Town Council has set aside some area in a wood grove by the town concert hall to serve as a space for the project. Carroll hopes that Irish craftsmen will use native materials for the memorial.
There is a design competition and the council is accepting proposals that meet its few requirements. The memorial must have the 29 names of the soldiers who died in the country in both English and the Irish language and these names must be inscribed in such a way that visitors are able to make rubbings, much like visitors do at the memorial in Washington, D.C. The proposed memorial must also have the inscription, “The people of the allied nations express their heartfelt gratitude for the service and sacrifice of those above and to their families, loved ones and the Irish nation.”
Carroll, who served with the First Infantry Division, and McDonnell, who has worked with the U.S. Department of Labor for thirty years, will visit Ireland in late spring to help judge the proposed memorial designs. They are fundraising for the memorial and hope that Irish Americans will contribute. The project will cost about a quarter of a million dollars.
They expect the memorial to be completed by November 2014 and they are determined to overcome any obstacles. McDonnell said, “For them to be remembered, that’s a proper thing.”
To learn more about the memorial visit www.theirishvietnamveteransmemorialproject.org.
To volunteer or contribute, contact Matthew Carroll at [email protected] or Brian McDonnell at 703-863-2705.