11 members of 37th Irish army cadet class pay tribute to President John F Kennedy

‘I had far more nerves today than 50 years ago’ – retired Lieutenant Colonel John Dunne


Standing proud with medals of service lined across their chests, 11 members of the 37th Irish Army cadet class paid tribute to president John F Kennedy 50 years to the day after they formed a guard of honour at his funeral.

On a day as cold as it was that November day in 1963, some of the former cadets, now retired officers, felt more emotional than they did when they performed their silent drill at Kennedy’s newly dug grave.

“I had far more nerves today than 50 years ago,” said retired Lieut Col John Dunne, who laid the wreath at a short ceremony. “We were just so busy then we didn’t have time to have nerves. It is much easier when you are doing a drill than something like today.”

“I didn’t expect to feel so emotion but standing there 50 years later, 20 yards in the difference, same kind of day,” said Leo Quinlan, a retired commandant. “I just got a bit choked up.”

Five cadets from the current 89th class accompanied the former cadets who had performed the drill in 1963 that impressed Kennedy so much on his visit to Ireland five months earlier.

Presenting colours
The new crop of cadets – from Sligo, Galway, Cork and Dundalk – presented the Irish colours and the cadet school colours next to Kennedy’s grave and the eternal flame.

Speaking during the ceremony, retired Col Bill Nott recalled the sad occasion when the cadets performed at the funeral at the personal request of Jackie Kennedy. President Kennedy had “helped people of all nations dream and believe that the world could be a better place,” he said.Nott read Cloths of Heaven by William Butler Yeats during the ceremony, which was attended by the Irish Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson.

Among the guests at the commemoration was Martin Dockery, a former lieutenant in the Old Guard US regiment who hosted the Irish cadets at Fort Myer 50 years ago.