On the fine crisp morning of March 17, 2013, the AOH Father Flanagan Division of Omaha, Nebraska, was present to honor the monument of General John O’Neill. In fact, every St. Patrick’s Day the Father Flanagan Division Honor Guard will accompany the oldest member, and the youngest member in laying the wreath. This year, 87-year-old Rodney Mark Bernard and 16-year-old Xavier Bradley answered the call of duty at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery.
General John O’Neill was born in Ireland on March 9, 1834 and died in Omaha, Nebraska, on January 8, 1878. General O’Neill served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was famously known as the hero of Ridgeway. O’Neill encouraged his fellow Irish to immigrate to the United States and to the state of Nebraska. He was the founder of O’Neill, Nebraska, in Holt County.
During the last years of O’Neill’s life he organized forces to invade parts of British-controlled Canada. O’Neill was hoping to capture and seize enough land to use to bargain for the freedom of people in Ireland that were suffering under the rule of Great Britain. His raids in Canada were not successful, but his undying spirit and love for his countrymen gained much admiration and notice. On October 28, 1919, an unveiling of General O’Neill’s Monument took place. Eamon de Valera, the President of the Republic of Ireland, was present.
Today the Father Flanagan Division of the AOH seeks to uphold the tradition to honor a true Irish patriot who is buried in their midst. Indeed, General O’Neill is an inspiration for all Hibernians. On his monument it reads: “By nature a brave man, by principle a soldier of liberty, he fought with distinction for his adopted country, and was ever ready to draw his sword for his native land. To perpetuate his memory this monument was erected by the Irish nationalists. God Save Ireland.”