“Seventeen years ago, in 1998, as more a quirk of fate than anything else, I began the identification of the Irish who lost their lives in the Vietnam War at a time when no one believed any Irish had ever been there,” said Declan Hughes, Founder of the Irish Veterans. “The quirk of fate was I had been given a ring that belonged to a dead GI after a battle and I was charged with finding the family of the late owner.”
Hughes, who was born in Dublin, explained that his research led him to Washington D.C. in 1999 where he worked with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. He was instrumental in bringing the replica Vietnam Memorial to Ireland in 1999. Out of his research he was able to meet many Irish in Ireland who had survived Vietnam. With their help in 2002 he set up the charity Irish Veterans Historical Research Centre Ltd., which is now known as Irish Veterans Association.
“Our mission is to tell the stories of the Irish and those of Irish heritage who have served in other forces over the years,” said James Sikora, Executive Director of the Irish Veterans. “We are trying to join all the dots and speak to all Irish and those of Irish heritage globally...to create a network of people who identify as being Irish and as being veterans.”
The association held a dedication ceremony to commemorate the first Irish Veterans Post in honor of fallen American Lt. (SEAL) Michael Murphy in the chapter’s headquarters April 18.
Sikora, who grew up in Ireland but served eight years in the U.S. Army infantry - having deployed to the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, former Yugoslavia and Iraq - explained that the Irish Veterans chose to name the first post after Medal of Honor recipient, Lt. Michael Murphy because of his Irish heritage and his actions in Afghanistan in June 2005.
“Michael’s story is remarkable and we hope that through research and by connecting Irish Veterans around the world that we will be able to document the remarkable unknown stories of Irish veterans,” Sikora said. “These stories are important for the Irish people and Irish veterans from other countries, to know.”
Murphy’s story has become well known due to the book Lone Survivor, and the subsequent movie of the same name, as told by the single surviving special operator from Operation Red Wings, Marcus Luttrell.