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Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas

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Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

United States Marines
by Sean McBride
Slainte and Semper Fidelis

             

Semper et Ubique Fidelis

As we approach the High Holy Day I want to take a minute of your time to share a few thoughts with you. As always, before proceeding I must thank Col. J. B. "Irish" Egan (USMC, Ret), a great Irish-American and a great Marine, for providing me with much of the following. Like many Irishmen at this time of the year I'm keenly awaiting the celebration of St Paddy's Day - not that an Irishman ever needs an excuse to celebrate anything; two Irishmen together is a party; add a third and you've got a family reunion! I often wonder why amidst all the other ethnic celebrations: African-American History Month, Hispanic-American Heritage week, Woman's History Month and Asian-American Heritage Week to name but a few, that there is no formal recognition of the contributions of the Irish among us; especially, U.S. Marines of Irish descent. What many of you may not know was that the Irish had much to do with the history of our Corps. In 1792 the Count de Provence (afterwards King Louis XVIII of France) presented the Irish Brigade with a "farewell banner", bearing the device of an Irish Harp embroidered with shamrocks and fleurs-de-lis. The gift was accompanied by the following address: "Gentlemen, we acknowledge the inappreciable services that France has received from the Irish Brigade in the course of the last 100 years; services that we shall never forget, though under an impossibility of requiting them. Receive this Standard, as a pledge of our remembrance, a monument to our admiration, and of our respect, and in future, Generous Irishmen, this shall be the motto of your spotless flag: 1692 - 1792 Semper et ubique Fidelis" In Ireland in 1848 during the Young Irish Disorders the following men were captured, tried, convicted of treason against Her Majesty the Queen, and were sentenced to death: John Mitchell, Morris Leyne, Pat Donoghue, Charles Duffy, Thomas Meagher, Richard O'Gorman, Terrence McManus, Thomas McGee and Michael Ireland. Before passing sentence, the presiding Judge asked if any of them had anything to say. Meagher, speaking for all, said, "My Lord, this is our first offense but not our last. If you will be easy with us this once, we promise, on our word as gentlemen, to do better next time. And, next time, we won't be fools to get caught." Thereupon, the indignant judge sentenced them all to be hanged by the neck until dead and then be drawn and quartered. Passionate protest from all over the world forced Queen Victoria to commute the sentence to transportation to far away, wild Australia, where they would remain in exile for the rest of their natural lives. In 1874, word reached the astounded Queen Victoria, that Sir Charles Duffy, who had just been elected Prime Minister of Australia, was the same Charles Duffy who had been banished there 25 years before. On the Queen's demand, the records of the rest of the banished men were revealed and this is what she discovered: Thomas Francis Meagher, Governor of Montana Terrence McManus and Patrick Donahue, Brigadier Generals, U. S. Army Richard O'Gorman, Governor General of Newfoundland Morris Leyne & Michael Ireland, former Attorneys General of Australia. Thomas McGee, Member of Parliament, Montreal; Minister of Agriculture and President of Council, Dominion of Canada. John Mitchell, NY politician, and father of NYC Mayor at outbreak of WW I. Just goes to prove what a couple of displaced Micks are capable of when given a chance and when they put their minds to it. Early American folk history records that the only thing that Irishmen liked to do more than fight was drink. And the only reason the Irish like to fight among themselves is that they have yet to find a worthy opponent. With the Irish courage, coupled with blind daring and a love of excitement and conflict of any kind, it's no wonder that in Colonial America the Tun Tavern Marine Recruiter, one Robert Mullan, easily made quota. History shows that these loyal Sons of Erin did well wearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. In fact, on 24 April 1778, a detachment of salty, swaggering, audacious Leathernecks led by Lieutenant Wallingford on the Colonial Sloop Ranger, prevented a mutiny and rescued the Captain, one John Paul Jones, USN. You might say the Navy owes us one for saving their "Old Man". This same John Paul Jones' most climatic sea battle aboard the "Bon Homme Richard" was also greatly influenced by Marines - primarily Irishmen, led by Lt Edward Stock, an Officer in the Irish Regiment of the French Army, who was commissioned as a Marine; and Lt James O'Kelly. In 1801, another Irishman, known for his military ardor, thirst for glory, womanizing and general quest for adventure, won fame in Derna, Tripoli. His name rolls off your tongue in its own brogue - Presley O'Bannon. Of course, it should come as no shock that the only Commandant of whom we have no picture, the Fourth CMC --Anthony Gale, an Irish immigrant, was cashiered from the Marine Corps for drinking, fighting, and generally raising hell in the streets of Washington D.C. An anthology of Medal of Honor winners, including one Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly, who was awarded two, provides true testament to an Irishman's proclivity for placing himself in the middle of a donnybrook. From 1861 until World War I, of the 102 Marines that were awarded our nation's highest decoration, 20% listed their home of record as one county or another in Ireland. Men the likes of Private Michael McNamara, Private James Dougherty, Private John Fitzgerald and Sergeant Michael McNally, to name just a few. With monikers like that, where else could they be from. It was no surprise to me that the first Marine to win the Medal of Honor in Viet Nam was one Robert O'Malley of Ireland. I always pause this time of year to remember some of my own St. Paddy's Days past. Stumbling between "Ireland's Own", "Murphy's" and "The Irish Times" in DC; knocking back green beers at Hooter's in San Diego; chasing soju with OB at the Montana Club in Tongduchong, ROK; sharing vodka, beer and lies with the locals in Almaty, Kazakhstan; pulling a 12 hour shift at "O'Brien's" in Annapolis with the entire wardroom of Company B; celebrating with my lovely bride and a hundred of my best Irish friends at the Lejeune O'Club; and many, many memorable (and some regrettably that I just don’t remember!) St. Paddy's Days making the loop between Maloney's, the M&M, the KofC, the VU and Dan & Sally McHollis’ Club Bar back home in Butte, Mt, where everyone is Finnish on 16 March and everyone is Irish on 17 March. As I once again join the celebration at the Camp Lejeune O’Club, this time hosted by the Boys from Boston of the 25th Marines, I’ll be wishing we all could be together to hoist a couple of jars this St. Paddy's Day. Despite what may be PC, you may rest assured that this Lad will be maintaining the right tradition. God made the Irish gregarious, loquacious, and addicted to feast, fair and festival. He invented whiskey to keep us from taking over the world and I stand here before you as a testament that it worked! So keep those Irish eyes smiling; it's good for your soul, and it keeps the rest of the world wondering. Semper Fi Lads, Up the Republic, and may the lilt of Irish laughter lighten every load, may the mist of Irish magic shorten every road, and may you always remember all the favors you are owed. At the upcoming Paddy's Day extravaganza I'm sure that everything will be toasted but the bread. So here now, my toast to you:

May you be poor in misfortune, Rich in blessings, Slow to make enemies, Quick to make friends. But rich or poor, quick or slow, May you know nothing but happiness From this day forward.

Slainte and Semper Fidelis, Sean McBride