Virginia News

William Halpin - St. Columcille Lifetime Achievement Award

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY! Greetings to everyone from the Commonwealth of Virginia on this St. Patrick’s Day. On this day we set aside our problems and remember the joy in Life that comes from good company and the celebration of a great culture. St. Patrick’s Day is a time for fun and laughter, for showcasing the Best of the Irish and for demonstrating our pride in homeland and heritage. St. Patrick’s our life story is worth remembering during tough times for he himself faced and overcame great personal hardship that tested him to the limits. The family of the Gael gathers in his name all over the world, especially Ireland. We are a very lucky to have a large global Family.

Our Divisions are very busy with all their activities. We have one more New Division ready to be chartered in Alexandria by Past National Director Pat Troy (The Living Legend). We continue to have more and more St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Alexandria, Manassas, Virginia Beach/Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke, Sperryville and Fredericksburg. After having a few Parades we have grown and continue to add more Parades in our Communities promoting our Irish Heritage and Culture. On March 14th we had our 32nd Annual Gaelic Mass in Honor of St. Patrick sponsored by Col. John Fitzgerald Division #1 Arlington at St. Charles Catholic Church. The Gaelic Mass Chairman was Past State President Jim Carmody. The Celebrant for the Mass was Reverend Gerald Creedon from County Cork, Ireland.

Pictured (L – R) State President Rich Aleksy, Terry Riley - 2010 Hibernian of the Year, State VP Chuck Curran

On December 12, 2010, a cold, rainy day not unlike December 12, 1862, the Thomas F. Meagher Division participated in the Annual wreath laying ceremony at the Kirkland Memorial on the Sunken Road in Frericksburg, VA. It was here that General Thomas Meagher’s Irish Brigade repeatedly assaulted across the plain below Marye Heights, losing approximately 550 Officers and Men. Ironically, Confederate defenders included Cobb’s Brigade commanded by Antrim-born Colonel Robert McMillan and the Lochrane Guards, an Irish infantry company from Macon, Georgia. As McMillan and his men viewed the 28th Massachusetts’ green flag advancing “Oh, God…here comes Meagher’s fellows” was heard along the confederate line. It was at Fredericksburg that General Robert E. Lee allegedly referred to the “Fighting 69th”, a moniker that has endured into that New York National Guard unit’s deployments to Iraq. Through that cold December night in 1862, Confederate Sgt. Richard Kirkland heard the moans and cries of the Union wounded. This American soldier of sublime compassion climbed over the stone wall and brought water to his wounded foes. Fighting men on both sides of the line called him “The Angel of Marye Heights”. The memorial commemorates this act of compassion during the heat of the Battle. The ceremony was highlighted by an informative talk by keynote speaker Frank O’Reilly the National Park Service Ranger/Historian and author of The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock. The ceremony concluded with laying wreaths and the playing of Taps.

On February 12th during our Quarterly State Meeting hosted by Father Edwin Kelley Division we honored two of our Outstanding Brother Hibernians. Virginia State Board honored Brother Terry Riley, recipient of the 2010 Hibernian of the Year, from Lt Col. Dowd Division and Brother William Halpin, recipient of the St. Columcille Lifetime Achievement Award. Congratulations to both. Attached are the pictures of the presentations by our State VP Chuck Curran and myself.

On January 22nd the Major Dooley Division held their Annual wreath laying ceremony of their namesake Major Dooley. Major James Henry Dooley was the son of Irish immigrants John and Sarah Dooley. He was born in Richmond, VA, one of nine children. His Father, John Dooley, Sr. was a successful hat manufacturer. The Dooley Family was prominent in the community and the Parish of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. After the wreath laying ceremony Dr. Lynn Baylis took the group on a walking tour of the Italian Garden. The Dooley’s brought back a Gazebo on a ship from a vacation in Italy.

 

Irish American Heritage Month

As I write this, we are still in the dog days of summer, hot and humid in the wonderful Commonwealth of Virginia. But, brothers, now is the time to get active – to take those steps we all need to take to get March officially designated as Irish American Heritage Month. Our National President has made getting March designated permanently as IAHM a priority. That’s good enough for me – and I hope it’s good enough for all of us.

As you all know, at the recent National Convention in Cincinnati, we held our biennial elections which resulted in some new National Directors and new assignments. I am very honored and happy to say that the IAHM Committee consisting of myself, John Schell and Neil Cosgrove remain intact. John and Neil will be using all available resources to communicate the goals, objectives and ideas to all of you, going through National Directors and State Presidents. Additionally, we will be setting up meeting with key congressional leaders of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs to enlist their support.

So what is it that we are asking you to do? It may look like a lot – but there is so much that can be done with the talent we have in the Order.

I am asking each State President to appoint a state IAHM Chairman to work with and coordinate the activities of County Boards and Divisions. Each County Board and Division should also appoint an IAHM Chairman. State Presidents, please take responsibility for making contact with the office of the Governor of your state asking the governors to declare March as IAHM. This needs to be done early on. Waiting until February to start the process just won’t work. I know – we had elections in Virginia in 2010 and I waited until the new Governor and his staff were in place – too late! So we are starting early this year.

Presidents down the line should be coordinating with local jurisdictions for them to declare March as IAHM. Talk to your mayors and other elected officials to make this happen. In doing this, be prepared to propose language for the resolution, focusing on the contributions of the Irish and those of us of Irish descent to the State, County or local jurisdiction. We need to stress positive contributions, avoiding the “wear your green, everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day” trivial prose.

We call on all – State, County, Division – to plan and execute positive activities for March that will stress and build upon our Irish Heritage. Do you need some ideas? Contact Dr. Tim O’Donnell, President of Christendom College in Virginia. He has a great series of talks on Catholic Ireland and the Nine Years War. The lectures are based on his book “Swords Around the Cross – The Nine Years War – Ireland’s Defense of Faith and Fatherland 1594-1603.” It is a fantastic book. Or, just get the book and present it to your local library. How about a series of talks either in schools or libraries by a local seanchai or storyteller. We have so many wonderful stories in our heritage. Have you considered having a Gaelic Mass around St. Patrick’s Day? Publicize it in your parish bulletin, and invite all your parish. Oh, by the way, these activities are also a wonderful way to find Irish Catholic men in your community who would make great members of the AOH.

The key to all this is that we must start now for activities to highlight our Irish American Heritage in March. The more we can take forward to our national elected leadership in Congress and the White House, the better chance we have in getting IAHM permanently designated for March – make it grow – so that the military, the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress and others can expend funds and manpower to recognize the contributions of Irish and Irish Americans to this great country.

We continue to ask you, our membership, to let the IAHM Committee know what you are doing in support of IAHM to help us strengthen our case with the appropriate legislative bodies at the National level.

Irish American Heritage Month

We continue to make progress on the initiative to have March permanently declared as National Irish American Heritage Month. For the twentieth consecutive year, the President declared March 2010 as IAHM. We reported on states that had done so in the previous Digest. Additionally, we have received information from Delaware that the Governor had made a similar proclamation, and the State of Rhode Island, via the Rhode Island General Assembly has declared March 2010 as Irish American Heritage Month as they have for the past 33 years by unanimous resolution. This year’s proclamation was sponsored by Brother State Board VP Representative Peter Martin. Well done, brother.

On behalf of the members of the IAHM Committee, John Schell and Neil Cosgrove, I thank those of you who responded to our requests for letting us know what activities you had in support of IAHM. Wow! Lots of good stuff going on – too many to mention here – I’d probably fill up the whole Digest if I reported them all. But, just a few will be highlighted here. This is not to imply that these were the “best” – just kind of representative of all of your activities.

The Governor of Maryland joined several other states by declaring March as IAHM. Governor O’Malley, as an Irish-American, certainly supported our efforts. We are still waiting final word from the Irish-American Catholic governor of The Commonwealth of Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell. Back to Maryland, brothers there contacted state universities, community colleges and public libraries asking them to support IAHM. Division 5 Baltimore City set up the Irish Photo Exhibit and Contest. Catonsville Public Library had a large display with things Irish, including proclamations, books, and films related to Ireland.

Rockland County AOH Division 3 made a donation to the Pearl River Library to fund the purchase of books and over twenty CDs relating to Irish American Heritage. A large poster thanking the AOH for the donation and recognizing IAHM was prominently displayed at the library entrance throughout the month.

Colonel John Fitzgerald Division in Arlington Virginia once again sponsored the very well attended Gaelic Mass celebrated by Father Gerry Creedon. Father Creedon, a graduate of All Hallows Seminary in Drumcondra, Dublin, Ireland, and a fluent Irish speaker, has celebrated this Mass the week of St. Patrick’s Day for many years now.

Again, these activities are representative of the many other activities sponsored by our AOH states, counties and divisions throughout the month of March. Well done!

In coming weeks and months, we, the IAHM committee will be meeting with members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs in an attempt to get legislation sponsored and passed to make IAHM a permanent thing. We have been in communication not only with IAHM but other government agencies such as the Smithsonian. Not all of our actions have met with the desired response, but that does not deter us.

We continue to ask you, our membership, to let the IAHM Committee know what you are doing in support of IAHM to help us strengthen our case with the appropriate legislative bodies at the National level.

Veterans Affairs

Pictured (L to R) JJ Kelly, VA Delegate Edward T. Scott, VA State Board President Rich Aleksy, and VA State Veterans Affairs Chairman Bill Halpin.

On April 24th, I was pleased and honored to have been able to be a part of a presentation by Virginia Delegate Ed Scott to VA State Board President Rich Aleksy and Veterans Affairs Chairman Bill Halpin. The Commonwealth of Virginia has designated March 30th of each year as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day to honor the service and contributions of the Commonwealth’s Vietnam-era veterans. Co-sponsored by Delegate Ed Scott and Virginia State Senator Ed Houck, the bill, which was pushed by brother Halpin, passed unanimously through both houses. Per Delegate Scott at the presentation, this is an unusual occurrence. Thank you brother Halpin and all the Virginia state senators and delegates for this wonderful and appreciated piece of legislation.

I have received a request from one of our brothers for help on pursuing a claim through the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during 1957 through 1959. He believes the defoliants used at Gitmo during that period are responsible for the multiple cancers from which he now suffers. No such term such as Agent Orange existed at that time. As an aside, the term Agent Orange probably came from the color of the containers in which it was shipped. Anyway, if anyone has any information relating to use of defoliants at Gitmo during that period, please forward it to me so we can assist this brother in his VA claim.

Congratulations again to Black Jack Kehoe Division for their continuing support of Operation First Response and the Walk for the Wounded at Rose Tree Park, Media, PA, on May 22nd. By the time you read this, that march and its related activities will be history. I plan to join our brothers on that date for an outstanding event to help put a soldier back on his feet. The 2009 walk raised over $150,000. This year’s goal is $175,000. Donations to this wonderful organization can be made at www.operationfirstresponse.org.

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or marine. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

Virginia News

The Commonwealth of Virginia continues to be very busy.  After many years our State Organizer Brother Paul McFadden organized a new division in Powhatan, Virginia named for Msgr. Charles A. Kelly, Jr.  Congratulations to the Charter Division President Michael McGee and his newly elected officers.  On April 24, 2010 as part of our State Meeting we conducted a Shamrock Degree by the Major Dooley Degree Team and the Major Degree by the Brian Boru Degree Team.  There were 35 Brothers who received their Degrees.  We are all looking forward to the upcoming National Convention.

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day – The Virginia AOH initiated action to formally recognize past, current, and future contributions of Vietnam and Vietnam-era military veterans resident in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  They suggested a bill that would annually proclaim 30 March as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” and encourage observance of that day with ceremonies and activities that promote recognition of the contributions of those involved in the Vietnam conflict. It was on 30 March 1973, that the United States Armed Forces completed the withdrawal of combat troops from Vietnam.  District 30 Delegate Ed Scott agreed to champion this legislation.  As a result, House Joint Resolution Number 136 now designates March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day in Virginia to celebrate the service and numerous contributions of the Commonwealth’s Vietnam-era veterans.”  The resolution notes that more than 58,000 members of the United States Armed Forces, including 1,304 Virginians, lost their lives in Vietnam and more than 300,000 members of the Armed Forces were wounded.  Further, the resolution notes that more than 262,000 Vietnam veterans currently reside in the Commonwealth.  Delegate Ed Scott presented a framed copy of the joint resolution at the VA AOH state meeting in Richmond on 24 April.

Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia has continued to be very busy. After many years we have organized a new division in Powhatan, Virginia named for Msgr. Charles A. Kelly, Jr.  Congratulations to charter Division President Michael McGee and his newly elected officers.  We continue to have more and more St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Alexandria, Manassas, Virginia Beach/Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke and Fredericksburg.

On March 15th we had our 31st annual Gaelic Mass in honor of Saint Patrick sponsored by Col. John Fitzgerald Division #1 Arlington at St. Charles Catholic Church. The Gaelic Mass chairman was past State President Jim Carmody. The Celebrant for the Gaelic Mass was Reverend Gerald Creedon from County Cork, Ireland.

On January 23rd during our quarterly state meeting hosted by the Col. Thomas J. Cunninham Division, it’s founding Brother, Edwin (Ned) Woisard was honored by the Virginia State Board as the recipient of the 2009 Virginia Hibernian of the Year. Ned has served in numerous capacities at both the Division and State Levels and has been a stalwart supporter of all the AOH programs and initiatives throughout his 24 year membership.

On January 23rd Major Dooley Division had their annual wreath laying ceremony of their namesake Major Dooley.  Major James Henry Dooley was the son of Irish immigrants John and Sarah Dooley. He was born in Richmond, Virginia, one of nine children. His Father, John Dooley, Sr. was a successful hat manufacturer. The Dooley family was prominent in the community and the Parish of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. After the wreath laying ceremony Dr. Lynn Baylis took the group on a walking tour of the Italian garden. The Dooley’s brought back a gazebo on a ship from a vacation in Italy.

Ned Woisard is Virginia Hibernian of the Year

On January 23, during the recent quarterly State business meeting, hosted by the COL Thomas J. Cunningham Division, its founding member, Brother Edwin (Ned) Woisard was honored by the State Board as the recipient of the 2009 Virginia Hibernian of the Year.  Ned has served in numerous capacities at both the Division and State levels and has been a stalwart supporter of all AOH programs and initiatives throughout his 24 year membership. Ned was a Charter member of the Cardinal Cushing Division and throughout his 12 years with that Division he served in various leadership and committee chairmanship positions.  Brother Ned parlayed his experience and vision into the founding of the Colonel Thomas J. Cunningham Division of the AOH in 1998, thus expanding the Order to Loudoun County, one of the fastest growing counties in the Commonwealth, as well as the United States.  While others assisted, it was his personal determination that made the Cunningham Division a reality.  In Ned’s spirit, the Division has become a successful and vibrant organization that has significantly contributed to the local community and our membership parishes.  Ned is always there to assist all of the Division’s officers, Committee Chairmen, and general membership in all of their functions and responsibilities. This should not be a surprise to any, as Ned is a World War II veteran and a member of the exclusive club that Tom Brokaw refers to as the “Greatest Generation.”  Ned has not slowed down a bit; if anything he has accelerated his enthusiasm for not just the AOH, but our Holy Catholic Church and country.  Congratulations Ned!

(L to R) Gene Bransfield (State Treasurer), Chuck Curran (State Vice President), John O’Hara (Div. President), Ned Woisard, Rich Aleksy (State President), Bruce Denault (State Rec. Secretary), J.J. Kelly (National Veterans Committee Chairman)