Irish cadets who performed at JFK funeral to offer final salute

Irish cadets who performed at JFK funeral to offer final salute

An interesting article tweeted by the Irish Embassy in Washington this morning. Remembering the Irish Army cadets who stood by JFK’s graveside in 1963:

For hours the young cadets waited, standing at attention by the freshly dug grave – a striking tableau in their crisp green tunics and brown breeches, rifles by their sides.

Fifty years later, they still remember how those hours felt like an eternity, the muffled beat of the distant drums growing steadily louder as the funeral procession crossed the Potomac River and entered Arlington National Cemetery.

They were closer to the grave than anyone, this specially chosen honor guard about to deliver the performance of their lives.

Opposite, a phalanx of press photographers from around the world jostled for position, training cameras on the 27 soldiers as reporters asked, “Who are those guys?”

The answer astounded them.

The cadets were from Ireland, fresh-faced 18- and 19-year-olds who, just a day earlier, had been whisked from their barracks on a remote, wind-swept plain in County Kildare to travel, along with Irish President Eamon de Valera, to Washington for the funeral.

With names like McMahon, Coughlan, Sreenan and O’Donnell, they hailed from towns and villages all over Ireland. Most had never been abroad, never been on a plane. Yet there they stood, a foreign army on American soil about to give a final, silent salute to a U.S. president with an Irish name: John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Even today, they marvel at the fact that, in her darkest hour, Jacqueline Kennedy made a special request of the U.S. State Department: that the Irish cadets who had so mesmerized her late husband with a memorial drill for the dead during his visit to Dublin just months earlier, perform that same drill by his grave.

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