Private First Class Thomas Minogue
By Ray O’Hanlon
There will be parades and celebrations of St. Patrick all over the world this weekend.
One of them will be in Guantanamo Bay Cuba.
The parade is a military affair in terms of its organization, so a good marching order can be expected.
Not in that order, but in the hearts and minds of marchers, will be Private First Class Thomas “Tommy” Minogue.
Minogue will be the parade’s honorary grand marshal.
He will be there in spirit.
Tommy Minogue, from Inwood in Manhattan, was killed in Vietnam on March 21, 1967 in a ferocious firefight that became known as the “Battle of One Niner.” He had just turned 20.
“One Niner” pitted Minogue and about a hundred of his fellow Americans against an estimated 1,000 North Vietnamese regular troops.
Anyone who has seen the movie “Forrest Gump” and its Vietnam battle scene will recognize the heroism of Tommy Minogue.
In the movie, Forrest, played by Tom Hanks, is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism under fire.
Tommy Minogue was on his way to being awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his heroism.
Then the army bureaucracy had another idea and awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for gallantry.
This didn’t rest well with Minogue’s family and friends and a few years ago a campaign was launched to have Minogue promoted into the hallowed ranks of Medal of Honor winners.
Tomorrow’s Guantanamo parade is organized by Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay and it will require a joint effort involving an array of supporters to see the campaign for Minogue through to a successful conclusion.
One of those campaigners is Brigadier General John Hussey, who describes Minogue’s heroism in a parade news release.
Minogue, a field medic, was killed in action when, as Hussy describes, “he shielded his company commander from enemy automatic fire with his own body.”
Minogue, according to battlefield accounts, also took a machine gun from a fallen comrade and helped drive back the attackers.
Wrote General Hussey in part: “The North Vietnamese had killed most of the Company officers and were attempting to kill the company’s commanding officer and overwhelm the remaining U.S. soldiers. During the attack Pfc. Minogue procured a weapon and returned fire on enemy positions while simultaneously treating the wounds of his fellow soldiers before shielding his commanding officer from enemy fire.”
Minogue’s actions allowed the company commander, Captain Ronald Rykowski, to call in close air support, indirect fire and medical evacuations, and saved fellow American soldiers.
Tragically, Minogue was unable to defend himself as he took bullets aimed at Rykowski who himself had been wounded three times.
“His sacrifice,” wrote Hussey, saved not only the company commander’s life but also the lives of several other U.S. service members who were able to withstand and survive enemy attack. Currently a U.S. Army board of corrections is reviewing Pfc. Minogue’s award for possible upgrade to the Medal of Honor.”
Saturday’s parade will duly honor Minogue, described in the release as a “Celtic Warrior,” and also the sacrifice of “all of those who served in the armed forces of the United States of America.”
The battle to have Minogue awarded the Medal of Honor has, as stated, been going on for some years.
Congressman Peter King, back in 2012, stated of Minogue: “A very compelling case has been made that Army Private Minogue should have received the Medal of Honor.”
It is still compelling.