On Sunday, May 27, Post 9, Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA ), honoured the 94 Irishmen from the Defence Forces, An Garda Siochana and civilians who died while serving on UN peacekeeping missions across the world.
Mayor Aengus O'Rourke was given the honour of being the association's guest at Coosan Cemetery on the day, and of laying a wreath on behalf of the people of Athlone in honour of those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Addressing the crowd, Mayor O'Rourke thanked the IUNVA for extending the honour to him, and welcomed those in attendance for what he described as a "very special and poignant occasion".
"I want to acknowledge the families here today, the relatives and friends of the Irishmen across our Defense Forces, An Garda Siochana and indeed civilian personnel, who lost their lives while serving on UN peacekeeping missions across the world," Mayor O'Rourke said.
"All 94 names are inscribed on this beautiful memorial stone behind me. It is only right and proper that we should remember these people and get together as we are today as a community reflecting on the service given by all. We also reflect on the pride felt by all of these people and their families as they represented their country and the UN overseas. We also reflect on the bravery shown by them as they put themselves forward in a selfless way for the very difficult and challenging work they undertook.
"I also want to mention and thank the men and women of our Defense Forces and other arms of the state both uniformed and civilian who are serving overseas today in difficult circumstances. We thank them for the work that they do and pray that they all return safely to their families and friends at the end of their overseas tour."
On behalf of the families present, Mayor O'Rourke thanked the IUNVA, which works to support members and their families in so many ways, professionally and expertly.
"Today's ceremony, so brilliantly organised and coordinated, is a perfect example of the great work that you do," he said to members of the IUNVA.
Concluding, Mayor O'Rourke referenced a line from American poet Joseph Drake he felt fitted the occasion: "And they who for their country die, shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier's tomb, And beauty weeps the brave."