By Irish Echo Staff
The death has taken place of Michael Coyne, a Galway-born Vietnam War veteran who won a Bronze Star during his combat tour.
Coyne, who was 75, immigrated to Chicago at the age of 16 and shortly after went to war for his adopted country after being drafted into the army.
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He would win the Bronze Star with V Device, a Purple Heart with two clusters (he was wounded five times) the Vietnam Campaign medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, and a Gallantry Medal awarded by the then South Vietnamese government.
The Kinsale, County-Cork-based group, Irish Veterans, in announcing the death of Coyne in a Dublin hospital, said that it was with with profound sadness and regret that they were informed of the passing “of our close friend and Board Member, US Army Veteran (1966-69), Michael Coyne.”
According to the Irish Veterans, Coyne served in-country with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, earning 5 Purple Hearts, and a Bronze Star with V, that for rescuing his comrades from a minefield, in the middle of a firefight.
Said Declan Hughes of Irish Veterans in a statement:”I first met Mike when I addressed the American Legion Post (JFK63), in Dublin in 1998. I was trying to explain, very badly, that I was attempting to identify those Irish who lost their lives in the Vietnam War, and was hoping to bring ‘The Wall That Heals’ (1/2 scale replica Vietnam Memorial) to Ireland to honor the guys, and their families.
“In April/May 1999, The Wall arrived in Ireland on a nationwide, all island Tour (Collins Barracks Cork, Dublin Castle, Queens University Belfast, NUI Galway and Adare Manor), and I met Mike and his wife Libby, again.
“The Wall’s presence in the country signaled a wider acknowledgement that yes, Irish had indeed served in Vietnam – something which many people even today, find very hard to believe.
“For Mike, it was an opportunity to reach and teach many more people about the war, and the Irish connections. Mike willingly spoke about what he saw in-country, how he felt about the war, and his concern for all veterans who served there.
“He spoke to educate, and certainly not to glorify. Mike made many appearances in Irish and international media – radio, TV, newspapers, journals – and what mattered was his bearing witness to history, and educating multi-generations.
“As a founding board member of Irish Veterans, he never missed a meeting, traveling to wherever his presence was needed. Over 22 years, his friendship and support were unwavering, and we will all miss him hugely. To his wife Libby, we send our love and prayers. And our sincere condolences to his children Tommy, Micheal and Vanessa, and grandchildren.
“Our deep thanks to them for sharing him with us for so long. Mike was one-of-a-kind.”
Coyne, according to an RTE report, served his tour as a back deck machine gunner on M48 tanks that criss-crossed the Ho Chi Minh trail on search and destroy missions.
With his first pay check, he bought an 8mm camera and made a film diary of his life during the 1968 TET offensive.
After returning to Ireland, Mr. Coyne lived in County Meath.
Coyne was featured in the 2005 RTÉ documentary “The Green Fields of Vietnam,” which followed him on a journey back to Vietnam and the Cambodian border towns he last saw from his tank.
He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, his three children and four grandchildren.
About 2,000 Irish-born soldiers fought with the U.S. during the Vietnam War.