It was a night for remembering at the Kerry Hall building in Yonkers on Wednesday, December 7, as a special plaque was unveiled honoring 10 Medal of Honor recipients born in Co. Kerry.
At a lavish ceremony, attended by over 100 Kerrymen’s Association members and guests, tributes were paid and heroes were remembered for the service they provided and the lives they gave for their adopted country.
Also there to share in the special occasion was several war veterans, most with Kerry connections, including James Halpin, son of newly elected association president John Halpin.
The organizing committee included four veterans, Chris Keane, Sean Brosnan, Jim Mulvihill and Chris O'Sullivan.
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government. It is bestowed by the president upon members of the American armed forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.” There are more than 3,500 medal recipients to date.
Outgoing president of the Kerrymen’s Association Tom Kennedy, unveiled the plaque that will remain a part of the Kerry building.
“I can’t think of a better way for me to finish off my two years of presidency than to unveil this plaque,” said Kennedy, who hails from Camp in Co. Kerry.
Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone also addressed the guests.
“This is an extraordinary night because it’s hard to believe that 10 people from such a small area are recipients of the Medal of Honor,” he said.
The idea to research the Kerry recipients of this prestigious award was that of Sean Brosnan, former historian of the association. He discussed his findings with several members of the association, and it was decided that something should be done to honor the Kerry immigrants who bravely gave their lives for the U.S.
Co-chairman of the event Gerry O’Shea told the Irish Voice that it’s imperative to keep in mind that the Medal of Honor is only awarded for acts of reckless bravery, “away beyond the call of duty.” He also noted that the legendary General Douglas MacArthur proposed his own name for the Medal of Honor on three occasions.
“He was refused on all three occasions,"
O’Shea said. "We must remember that in the 19th century Irish Catholics were seriously discriminated against. They were widely viewed and often portrayed as ignorant and unsuitable for American citizenship."
Attendees at the Kerry event said it was nice to hear about real patriotic heroes at a time when there is so much cynicism around.
Geraldine Gleeson described the event “extremely moving.”
“Tonight is very special for all those from Co. Kerry. It’s really hard to imagine so many wonderful heroes hailed from Kerry, and tonight is a celebration of that and the wonderful things they have done for this country,” she said.
Attendees were entertained by Mary Courtney and John Redmond. The night was sponsored by construction firm Navillus.
The Co. Kerry born Medal of Honor recipients were: Pvt. John P. Murphy, 1862; Sgt. John Brosnan, 1864; Pvt. Timothy Spillane, 1865; Cpl. Thomas P. Murphy, 1869; Pvt. James Lenihan, 1873; 1st Sgt. James L. Morris, 1873; Pvt. John O’Sullivan, 1874; Pvt. John S. Donnelly, 1876; Pvt. William Evans, 1876 and 1st Sgt. David Roche, 1877. These men served during the American Civil War and the Indian War campaigns.