Home History The Irish of Medal of Honor Grove

The Irish of Medal of Honor Grove


This Memorial Day, we pause to reflect the generations of American veterans stretching back to their first engagement at Lexington and Concord in 1775. From this earliest action to the present day, the Irish of the United States have been over-represented in the U.S. Armed Forces. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the citations given in America’s highest possible military award, the Medal of Honor. Of the ~3,500 soldiers to ever receive the Medal of Honor, approximately two-thirds are of Irish birth or Irish descent.

The Medal of Honor is conferred “only upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty” while engaged in military actions. In Pennsylvania, Medal of Honor Grove was established in the 1960’s to recognize the Medal of Honor recipients from each of their respective states or U.S. territories.

In her retirement from teaching, Sister Maria Veronica of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary conducted research on all of the Medal of Honor recipients, whereupon she found that over 150 of the recipients – 65 born in Ireland – were not U.S. citizens and therefore could not be attributed to a state at MOH Grove. She explained this issue to her friend Bob Dougherty, who was a member of the Chester County Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). Dougherty then raised the issue with AOH National President Joe Roche. AOH committees then organized and fundraised for an appropriate memorial for these MOH recipients who were hitherto unrecognized at MOH Grove.

AOH Immigrant Soldier Monument. Source: Friends of MOH Grove.

In 1985, a seven-foot, seven-inch obelisk of County Wicklow granite was unveiled, recognizing the contributions of these immigrant soldiers from Ireland, Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Norway, Philippines, Scotland, South Wales, Sweden, Switzerland, the West Indies, and the names of five men with a birthplace unknown. It is an imposing and poignant monument, and is still cared for by AOH members who conducted a major restoration of the site in 2017.

AOH Members restoring Monument, 2017. Source: Friends of MOH Grove.

The following is a poem by Bridget Dunleavy, dedicated “To the Immigrant Soldiers”:

In blood they stood
And in their ghosts
So too we stand this day.
The freedom wrought
So costly bought
In an iron, final pain.

From lands unknown
To here they sailed
To fight for liberty.
They heard the name
And with no shame
They left to fight across the sea.

Salute these here!
The ones who gave
To us their unknown lives
For so long as we
Honor those deeds
Still, now they are nigh.

They stood in blood
And we in gold
Honoring their fight
Tread softly here,
Silence your tongue
And forever, keep the flame alight.

You can read more at: https://friendsmohgrove.org/aoh-memorial-history/ and at https://aoh.com/the-medal-of-honor-grove-at-valley-forge-pennsylvania/

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