Get your Irish up in March

  • Published
  • By Randy McFadden and Andrea Hilbig
  • 341st Communications Squadron
(Editor's Note: In addition to being Women's History Month, March is also Irish-American Heritage Month. This article was written to honor that occasion.)

The Irish have been one of the many ethnic groups who have helped build this magnificent country of ours. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 11.9 percent of the population reported being of Irish descent in 2008. Many emigrated from Ireland to escape religious persecution, the Potato Famine of 1840 and for the opportunities that a new country offered. They have had a positive impact on our nation as a whole.

According to the Dictionary of American History, approximately "50,000 to 100,000 Irishmen - more than 75 percent of them Catholic -- came to America in the 1600s, while 100,000 more Irish Catholics arrived in the 1700s." The original Irish that came prior to the Potato Famine claimed to be of Scotch-Irish descent as to be separated from the Irish emigrating at that time. These Scotch-Irish were businessmen, entrepreneurs, farmers and laborers looking for the freedoms and promises of a new nation. Many of the Irish who arrived after the Potato Famine found they were often discriminated against. There were signs stating "Irish Need Not Apply" and they were often depicted as nothing more than drunken brawlers. Even today, the statement "fighting Irish" is not an uncommon picture in society.

One of the most important and defining documents of our nation, The Declaration of Independence, was signed by eight Irish-Americans. In the political arena, there have been 22 American Presidents that claim to be of Irish descent. Some of the most famous leaders such as Andrew Jackson, whose parents emigrated from Ireland to the U.S. two years before he was born, became the seventh president. Even the current president, Barrack Obama, has claimed his Irish roots.

The beginning infrastructure of the country was built and forged by the hands of many an Irishmen. In addition, many stories exist of the Irish helping to build the railroads. They also worked in the coal mines of West Virginia, the steel mills of Pennsylvania and in the copper mines of Butte, Mont. Hard work has always been a strong characteristic of the Irish.

Other areas in which the Irish have impacted the nation are in the arts, music and entertainment fields. Artists such as Maureen O'Hara, George M. Cohan, Grace Kelly and Georgia O'Keefe have brought us beauty both on and off screen. F. Scott Fitzgerald, brought us great literary works such as The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise. An Irish American, James J. Braddock, aka "The Cinderella Man," became the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1935-1937.

Of course the Irish have a long and glorious association with the U.S. military, to include General Douglas MacArthur, Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of WWII, and one that is not commonly known, Lydia Barrington Darragh (1729-1789).
Lydia Barrington Darragh was a Dublin-born heroine of the Revolutionary War and spy for George Washington.

The Irish also served as Calvary troops during the westward expansion. The Irish have fought in every U.S. war, giving the "last full measure" many times over.

The Irish have been, and will continue to be, an integral part of society. They have left finger prints on our culture, poured ethics into our foundation, and have enriched the fabric of our lives.

We leave you with this....

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.