A fight to give fallen Irish solider citizenship

ST.AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- John Leahy is retired from the supermarket industry, but not from fighting for what he believes is due his fellow Irishmen.

Leahy was born in Kerry County, Ireland, and moved to the United States to make a better living.

"Back then when you were coming to the United States," said Leahy, "if you were between the ages of 20 and 25 you had to go to the American Embassy and swear that you defend the country or you couldn't get into the country."

During the late 40s and early 50s many immigrated here from Ireland and ended up on the front lines. Leahy was among those who served in the Korean Conflict.

"We were told that 90 days in the service and you automatically became a citizen," he said, "but Korea was classified a police action and wasn't declared a war and they say only in the case of war do they make you a citizen."

In 1954, Leahy became an American Citizen; in 1976, he began a campaign to obtain citizenship, posthumously, for 28 Irishmen killed in Korea, it him took 27 years to obtain it for his fellowmen.

"It was October 30, 2003," said Leahy, "HR 2623."

Now he's fighting again for the same honor for another Irishman, William Sharman Douglas, who is buried in Elmira, New York.

"I drove there and visited his grave," said Leahy. "The people in the cemetery knew he was not a citizen."

Since 2012, Leahy has been trying to get Douglas his citizenship.

"All we're looking for is what he deserves, his citizenship," said Leahy.

But he says no one is listening and he doesn't know why. He said he has written a number of letters and so far no response.

"The way I look at it is that if you're dead 60 years and you no longer can vote no one is listening," he said.

Leahy said at his age he doesn't have another 27 years to put up a fight but for now he is not giving up.

"At my age at 87, I can't wait that long and neither should he," said Leahy.

First Coast News called members of our congressional delegation, but their offices were closed Wednesday, so FCN will will follow up next week.


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