In the movie Braveheart, the Scottish leader, William Wallace, meets Stephen, an Irishman. After some bantering, one of Wallace’s men asks Stephen if he converses with the Almighty.
“In order to find his equal,” he answers boldly, “an Irishman is forced to talk to God.”
The Almighty’s role in Irish history begins with Patrick, a 5th century missionary who introduced Christianity to the Irish. After his death on March 17, 461, the Irish began to celebrate his life on what is now St. Patrick’s Day.
In time the people of the Emerald Isle came to America, and on March 17, 1762 New York City hosted the first St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Throughout American history, the Irish have made contributions in business (Henry Ford), entertainment (Walt Disney; Mel Gibson), journalism (Maureen Dowd; Peggy Noonan), labor (Mary Harris “Mother” Jones; George Meany), law (Robert F. Kennedy; Sandra Day O’Connor), literature (Tim O’Brien; Frank McCourt), politics (22 presidents and numerous other politicians), science (Michael Collins; Jim Collins), sports (Tom Brady; Muhammad Ali) and war.
As to protecting the nation, what follows is a glimpse of some of the Irish Americans who served in the military.
- Commodore John Barry (1745-1803): Father of the United States Navy
- Vice Admiral William Callaghan (1897-1991): The first captain of the USS Missouri
- Colonel Eileen Collins (1956-): Air Force test pilot; first female pilot and commander of a space shuttle
- Brigadier General Michael Corcoran (1827-1863): Trusted confidant to President Abraham Lincoln
- Sergeant Major Daniel Daly (1873-1937): Called the “fightinest Marine,” he twice received the Medal of Honor
- General Martin Dempsey (1952-): 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Major General William Donovan (1883-11959): Nicknamed “Will Bill,” served as the head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II; received the Medal of Honor; regarded as the founding father of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
- General Joseph Dunford (1955-): The 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps
- John Philip Holland (1841-1914): An engineer who developed the first submarine commissioned by the Navy
- Brigadier General Stephen Kearny (1794-1848): Claimed California during the Mexican-American War; Military Governor of New Mexico
- General John Kelly(1950-): A Marine and White House Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump
- General Henry Knox (1750-1806): Chief artillery officer during the American Revolution
- Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914): His book “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783” affected American geopolitical thought
- Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe (1898-1975): Asked by German soldiers to surrender during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, he replied, “Nuts!”
- Major General George Meade (1815-1872): Civil War officer who defeated Gen. Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg
- Admiral Michael Mullen (1946-): Served as the nation’s 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Major Audie Murphy (1925-1971): Most decorated combat soldier during World War II, to include the Medal of Honor
- Sergeant Timothy Murphy (1751-1818): An expert marksman, he killed two British general officers in order to preserve the American victory at Saratoga during the American Revolution
- Captain Jeremiah O’Brien (1744-1818): Commanding the Unity, he won the first naval battle of the American Revolution
- Rear Admiral Richard O’Kane (1911-1994): Had the most successful record of any submarine commander in World War II. His awards include the Medal of Honor, three Navy Crosses and three Silver Stars
- John Patrick O’Neill (1952-2001): A high ranking anti-terrorism expert who foresaw the attacks of 9/11. He died in the attack trying to help others
- General Phillip Sheridan (1831-1888): Union and Indian War general who later helped create Yellowstone National Park. The M551 Sheridan tank was named in his honor
- The Sullivan Brothers: George (1914), Francis (1916), Joseph (1918), Madison (1919) and Albert (1922) perished together in November 1942 when their ship was sunk by Japanese torpedoes. Their sacrifice led to the Sole Survivor Policy
An Irish Statement on Service
In 1770 Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman, wrote a sentence that applies to all who have served, do serve and will serve.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!