Monday, March 17, 2014

The Last Irish Medal of Honor

The Times interesting story about Okinawa and its version of "Danny Boy" by Isamu Shimoji and Yukito Ara missed the unique connection between that Emerald Isle and New York's Irish.  New York's  fabled "Fighting Irish" 69th regiment won its last Medal of Honor for valor above and beyond the call of duty on April 28, 1945 when Pfc Alejandro Ruiz single-handed stormed and captured a heavily defended Japanese position.   A representative of the 69th read Joyce Kilmer's "The Rouge Bouquet" at Ruiz's funeral in 2010 while a piper played the regimental song "Gary Owen."

Monument to the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg

Above the "Mourning Wolfhound Irish Brigade Monument" at Gettysburg.   On Okinawa the Irish Brigade aka the "Fighing Irish" 69th NYNG fought as the 165th Infantry Regiment.

IN a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet
There is a new-made grave to-day,
Built by never a spade nor pick
Yet covered with earth ten metres thick.
There lie many fighting men,        5
  Dead in their youthful prime,
Never to laugh nor love again
  Nor taste the Summertime.
For Death came flying through the air
And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,        10
Touched his prey and left them there,
  Clay to clay.
He hid their bodies stealthily
In the soil of the land they fought to free
  And fled away.        15
Now over the grave abrupt and clear
  Three volleys ring;
And perhaps their brave young spirits hear
  The bugle sing:
“Go to sleep!        20
Go to sleep!
Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.
Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,
You will not need them any more.
Danger’s past;        25
Now at last,
Go to sleep!”
There is on earth no worthier grave
To hold the bodies of the brave
Than this place of pain and pride        30
Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
Never fear but in the skies
Saints and angels stand
Smiling with their holy eyes
On this new-come band.        35
St. Michael’s sword darts through the air
And touches the aureole on his hair
As he sees them stand saluting there,
  His stalwart sons;
And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill        40
Rejoice that in veins of warriors still
  The Gael’s blood runs.
And up to Heaven’s doorway floats,
  From the wood called Rouge Bouquet,
A delicate cloud of buglenotes        45
  That softly say:
Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
Your souls shall be where the heroes are        50
And your memory shine like the morning-star.
Brave and dear,
Shield us here.