BY PETER ALLEN
A REENASCREENA man is at the centre of a new organisation that hopes to remember and immortalise the Irish people, both native and diaspora, who fought and lost their lives in wars throughout history.
‘Two-thirds of the 3517 American medal of honour recipients since 1861 have been Irish or of Irish descent,’ says James Sikora, of the Irish Veterans organisation.
Born in Oklahoma to an Irish mother and American father, he moved back to West Cork as an infant. James went to secondary school in Rosscarbery, after which he spent eight years in the US army as an infantryman deployed all over the world.
After leaving the army, he studied for a degree in European History. James was fascinated to learn the story of William J Donovan, a decorated veteran with ties to Skibbereen.
Donovan was a veteran of the Great War and is the only person to have received all four of the most prestigious US military awards: the Medal of Honour, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal. ‘He is revered in America as the father of the CIA and one of those individuals involved in founding such US special forces as the Green Berets,’ he said.
Following his studies, James began working for Adidas in Germany as a sports marketer and brand relations manager.
Moving back to Ireland, James studied the work of Declan Hughes in identifying Irishmen who fought in the Vietnam War who were killed. Talking to Declan resulted in the idea of setting up the Irish Veterans Organisation.
The hope is that the organisation can become a self-supporting entity, complete with a memorial, heritage centre and museum. ‘It is estimated that 32 Irishmen fought with the American armed forces in Vietnam, with a few others attached to Australian and Canadian divisions,’ explained James.
The organisation hopes to include everyone interested in Irish military history, anyone related to Irish people who have served, those who are veterans of past conflicts and those who currently active in an armed service. The eventual goal is to highlight the Irish people who were involved in conflicts that aren’t well known or remembered in Ireland.
The organisation successfully hosted its ‘Irish Veterans Medal of Honour Exhibition’ on March 10th at the Glen, Kinsale. International delegates, members of the American and Irish armed forces, as well as representatives from the American military newspaper Stars and Stripes, were in attendance. The historical exhibition featured a genuine Medal of Honour as its centrepiece.
For more information see irishveterans.org