In 1963 Felix O’Callaghan, Doylesfort Road, Dundalk, was a young Irish Army cadet, one of the 37th Irish Cadet class who formed the guard of honour at the graveside of the assassinated President John F Kennedy.
They were the first, and to date, the only foreign defence force ever to have taken part in a military ceremony in the United States. It was a unique occasion, as we wrote last week in The Democrat.
This year, on Monday 25 November, the exact day and date 50 years later, Felix stood at the graveside with another young Irish soldier, Cadet Sarah Donnelly, of the 89th Class Cadet School, at the Curragh,
They were both members of the Irish cadet party which flew out to provide a military honours flag salute 50 years later.
Sarah is from Bellfree Gardens, Dundalk, and was one of the young group of cadets who presented the Irish colours and the cadet school colours at one of the most famous graves in the world.
She was one of five cadets from the the current 89th class who were accompanied by the former cadets who performed the legendary and now historic drill in 1963 that so impressed President Kennedy when he visited Ireland the summer before he died.
And there was another Dundalk connection. John Dullaghan, a retired Lieutenant Colonel with the 82nd Airborne, US Army, was there with his sister Bernadine, and his wife Jo Ann.
John and Bernadine are from Upper Merches, Dundalk. John and his siblings have a long and proud record of US military service since the 1960s.
“What an occasion for five Dundalk natives of such diverse ages, backgrounds and life experiences to meet as a group for the first time,” said Felix.
The party included eleven members of the 37th class who formed a single rank at the same position day they held at the graveside on 25 November 1963.
Irish Defence Forces piper Sgt. Joseph Meade played The Mist o’er the Mountain and there was a reading of Yeat’s Cloths of Heaven.
“The ceremony was elegant in its brevity and simplicity,” said Felix o’callaghan, “welling up long lost emotions in all.”