"Those Who Served" Essay Competition
Memorial Day, 2001

Sponsored by The Irish Center, Washington, D.C.
Sister Sheila Byrne, Executive Director
Vickie Curtin, Chairperson, Educational Services

He Danced the Old Rhythms
(In Memory of Bernard Freyne)

I stand and stare at the long black wall
A tribute to servants of a country's call.
All did dance with death and fell.
Few their stories now can tell.
Panel sixteen, east line fifty-two
One man's tale I'll relate to you.
His goal was always to be a champ
From the dancing floor to a foreign camp.
While yet a youth in Ireland
He learned to dance with an Irish band.
Step by step, sweaty and heated,
He practiced to win when he competed.
A champion dancer, he'd win the prize
With banging reels, "quivers", and "butterflies".
The dance was swift and smooth and strong
Its rhythms chanted a heartfelt song.
The song of war: victory and sorrow
Passed down to the Irish youth of tomorrow.
He was born on an island, an ocean away
Yet, in Roscommon he didn't stay.
On American shores, now was he
And went to fight for the land of the free.
Across an ocean to dance with war,
But through his flesh a bullet tore.
His dance with death quickly passed.
The competition of courage, he won at last.
His trophy is large and long and black.
Bernard Freyne's remembered on this monumental plaque.
Age twenty-one, on March tenth, sixty-seven
His spirit passed on to dance in heaven.
I peer at the names carved into this wall
All "fifty-eight, two-twenty" soldiers did fall.
Not numbers but men, these names represent.
Each telling the story of a brave life spent.

By: Kelly, age 16
O'Neil James School of Irish Dance

Photo Courtesy of William Brendan McPhillips
Killed in action MAR 10, 1967

Timothy Daly

I wish that everyone could hear,
The words you wished to say,
And the love you could have spread,
Before your skies turned gray.

They took your life and all you had,
In just a moment's time.
But you stood before you fell,
In that dreadful crime.

I look up to all you did,
And how you were so brave.
Your wife and all your family
Admire the life you gave.

Vietnam is the place,
In which you were killed.
You were a good person,
So your duties were fulfilled.

I hope that you are up there,
Looking down on Earth,
To see your loving family,
And all that life is worth.

So, from all the people,
In which you were so dear,
Would like to say they miss you,
And they don't want you to fear.

Because someday, you'll reunite,
After all this pain,
You'll be in Heaven together at last,
And together you'll remain.

Everyday, I say a prayer,
Against all hate and strife,
I also say a prayer for you,
And your heroic life.

By: Angela, age 13
Donnelly School of Irish Dancing

Dear Captain Edmond John Landers

Your story starts near my own. You came from Oola, on the road between Limerick and Tipperary. My grandfather was born nearby. You both could see the purple Gaultee Mountains. You were both men of Munster, raised near the Rock of Cashel, seat of Irish kings, now in ruins. When you were a teenager, you trained in the Sarsfield Barracks. Patrick Sarsfield, one of Ireland's last great military heroes, fled and became the first of the Wild Geese. Did you consider yourself his heir? Did you know the stories of other Irish heroes who joined the U.S. Army, like Meagher and Corcoran of the Irish Brigade?
You joined the military of a country that you barely knew. You must have been a "soldier's soldier". Your commanders saw such talent, they put you in officer's school. Were you proud when you graduated high in your class, an airborne soldier, a "Screaming Eagle"?

You were still the "son of two countries", though. You visited Ireland often, and while there you married Teresa Murphy. Your transfer to Vietnam must have tempered that joy, but exhilarated you because you wanted to serve your country. That must have been what brought you to the forefront of battle on May 15th 1968. You could have stayed back and directed from a distance. Instead, like the "Big Red One", you led the way. They say you died instantly during that encounter with the Vietcong destroying camouflaged positions. Were your last thoughts of your wife and daughter?

By: John, age 13
Ancient Order of Hibernians, Commodore Barry Division

Lost Children

Sons and daughters from across the waters,
your homeland cries for thee.
You left the Isle for a new life and freedom,
but found only war and misery.

Our son's blood stains "Nam's" valleys and hills
while a mother's cry shakes the night so still.

We sons must leave in secrecy
to fight a war with bravery.
Us mother's must shed many a tear
for our sons we have lost that were held so dear.

Sons and daughters from across the waters
your homeland cries for thee.
You left the Isle for a new life and freedom,
but found only war and misery.

Freedom, a gift our sons must keep
Even if it causes our mothers to weep.
Life, a gift that must be held dear.
That's why us mothers like to keep our sons so near.

Sons and daughters from across the waters,
your homeland cries for thee.
You left the Isle for a new life and freedom,
but found only war and misery.

We sons die in the name of America
for all men and liberty.
Us mothers must shed a tear,
but are proud of our sons who died to keep us here.

Sons and daughters from across the waters,
your homeland cries for thee.
You left the Isle for a new life and freedom,
but found only war and misery.

Oh, we will see the darkest of days,
but our freedom we will not throw away.

By: Katy, age 12
Donnelly School of Dance

The Shamrock

A Shamrock. A Memory.
A heartbreak. A loss.

This is what a shamrock could mean to the family and friends of the Irish born servicemen who died in Vietnam. The shamrock describes the three main places they went during their life. Ireland, United States, and Vietnam. In Ireland, their home, their family and their friends. The United States, their new home, and their chance of going to Vietnam. Vietnam, an awful place of war and death of fellow servicemen and theirself. Why would anyone want to look at a shamrock knowing this, but it can bring back memories, good and bad. They risked their life for another country. Their families mourned then and still do today.  This might seem weird, but it really is not. You just have to look at it in a different way.

By: Caitlin, age 11
Donnelly School of Irish Dancing

In Memory of Anthony O'Reilly

In the Vietnamese War,
I cry to thee,
When you served your country diligently.
Oh Anthony O'Reilly, please come to thee.
Thank you for serving so graciously.

When trouble was near,
You were shipped to Vietnam.
Thy said, "please don't go worry my widowed Mother."
With bravery in hand, you fought so grand.
I thank you once more even though you are gone,
We give a salute to you for all you have done.

There must have been grieving and no singing at your Mother's hand,
But she knew you were gone,
With nothing to do but sit there and grieve for what you have done.
She must have been proud for your line of duty;
Thank you for standing so sturdily.

By: Laura, age 10
Donnelly School of Irish Dance

Previous Competition


Irish on the Wall

Irish in the Korean War

The Irish in WWII

Irish in Other Wars and Armies