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United States Army and Navy Veteran – John Casey

United States Army and Navy Veteran – John Casey

United States Army and Navy Veteran – John Casey

First published 27 October 2018

Thank you to Michael Noone for the article and updated report on John.

To mark United States Navy Day we would like to share the story of Irish American John Casey. A remarkable man with a remarkable story. John is one of the unknown tens of thousands of Irish Americans who have served in the United States military. In John’s case he served in both the U.S. Army and Navy. We are lucky to have John’s story as he has spent most of his life in Ireland, and is currently living in Roscommon.

US Army and Navy veteran John Casey was born on the 3 August 1926 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of Irish parents, James P. Casey and Mary F. O’Brien, who had emigrated to the Boston area sometime around the beginning of 1900. John had one brother, James, who was two-years older. Their father enlisted in the Army and served during the Great War. Still suffering from a gas inhaled during the war, he died in the mid-1930s and their mother took the two boys back to her family outside Athlone, Westmeath, Ireland until such time when they could return to the U.S. and the boys could take jobs.

Their plans were interrupted by Germany’s Hitler when he declared war on Poland and World War II began in September 1939. All transatlantic passenger ship traffic came to a halt and the Casey family was stuck in Ireland. Ireland remained neutral and the family were informed by the U.S. Consulate in Dublin to wait and see if the U.S. could guarantee safe passage to the U.S. Germany did allow one passenger ship from Europe to the U.S., but that one ship was full of US citizens from mainland Europe only. In 1942 John’s brother James turned 18, which meant he was eligible to enlist. He joined the U.S. army in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He volunteered as a member of the first American Ranger Battalion, who were trained by the British Commandoes. The unit made history in North Africa, Sicily and the Anzio Beachhead in Italy where he was captured and became a POW.

Following in his brother’s footsteps, John headed for Belfast two years later and enlisted in the American Army. He was sent to England without training and then to France. John remembers well the boat across the English Channel on 7/8 May. As they approached the harbor, the sky lit up. The men sank in dread the Germans had somehow launched a new offensive. As it turned out it was celebrations to mark the unconditional surrender of German forces. In France the new recruits were trained by staff member who came ashore on D-Day. John was then sent to the Bremen Enclave in Northern Germany until he accumulated enough points to return to the U.S. for discharge. John rose to the rank of Sergeant.

In the U.S. John worked for the Boston Gas Company. He hated the job, hated the civilian life and decided to join the U.S. Navy under a four year enlistment. No boot camp training needed as he held the pay grade of an army corporal. John was sent to the Naval Air Technical Training Command in Memphis, Tennessee where he graduated as an engine specialist and transferred to Naval Air Station Quonset Point Rode Island. His job there was to conduct a “Yellow Sheet” inspection of repaired navy planes for the test pilots; part of which included warming up the engines. While at Quonset Point the Korean War broke out. President Truman immediately tacked on an extra year to John’s enlistment. He was transferred to Alameda California as a member of Ships Company on a “Jeep” aircraft carrier, the USS Bairoko CVE 115 which was brought back into service from the mothball fleet. After getting the ship ready to join the fleet, it was transferred to San Diego, her home port. Finally, with the carrier loaded with planes, marines and equipment for the fighting war with North Korea, she sailed to her overseas “home port” Yokosuka, Japan. John was assigned to the flight deck as a “Yellow Shirt” plane director and guided many pilots to the catapults for launching. When they returned from “in country” John was the fire “Yellow Shirt” to guide the pilots back aboard…….day or night. With an end to the conflict, the Bairoko’s cruise with the 7th Fleet was over and John’s five-year enlistment was coming to an end and John was discharged from the navy.

John took advantage of the GI Bill and spent three years at a government approved school of broadcasting, televising and movie making. He wound up working in Hollywood studios as an assistant film editor for several first run movies and many TV series. John decided to return to Ireland to take care of his mother and set up a photography studio; he is proud of photographing over 900 weddings. After his mother passed away, he met and married a Margaret Leo from Tuam, Co. Galway. Sadly, she died after 18 years from Cancer. John then moved from Athlone to Grange, Co. Roscommon. John who is now 96, is still living comfortably in a nursing home.

We would like to thank John’s niece Kathleen Cummings and the American Legion Post IR03 ‘Commodore John Barry’ for their help in this production.

John Casey at his home in Roscommon.

Posted in: American Legion, County Westmeath, Irish American, Irish Veterans, Korean War, Second World War, The Great War, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, US Army

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In the Service of Peace – Congo Veterans

In the Service of Peace – Congo Veterans

In the Service of Peace – Our Congo Veterans

Photos by John O’Byrne

It was great to spend the day recording the personal accounts of veterans from Ireland’s deployment to the Congo (1960 – 1964) with Opération des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC). Seamus Ua Trodd, Thomas Gunn, Noel O’Neill, Shay Delaney, and Gregory Leech recalled their memories of service with the 1stInfantry Group, 34th 35th, and 39th Infantry Battalions. The memories of these men were remarkable. Wide and diverse recollections gave a full account of the Ireland’s service in the Congo and what the then young men or teenagers in some cases went through. The first time on a plane, long range patrols in a country the size of western Europe, the Siege of Jadotville, interaction and helping local people, movement controller for UN aircraft, and asking your comrades to write letters home for you.

To us these UN veterans are a national treasure and their accounts should be recorded for future generations

Thank you to the ONE Cathal Brugha for their support in this recording.

This project is supported by the Community Foundation for Ireland. 

You can support our projects by becoming a Patreon.

Posted in: Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces, Irish Veterans, Opération des Nations Unies au Congo, UN Peacekeeping, United Nations, United Nations Operation in the Congo, Veteran's Welfare

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Recording the Story of the 18pdr with Sgt Robert Delaney

Recording the Story of the 18pdr with Sgt Robert Delaney

Recording the Story of the 18pdr with Sgt Robert Delaney

Photos by John O’Byrne and Michael Coyne

Filming on location at the Curragh Military History Museum, Defence Forces Training Centre to record the story of the recently restored Ordnance QF 18-pounder; one of the very same that fired the opening shots of the Irish Civil War in 1922. The Ordnance 18-pdr served throughout the Great War, in the early years of the National Army, and with the Irish Defence Forces Artillery Corps up until the 1960s. This particular gun was sold off in the 1950s and disappeared across the Atlantic. As it turned out it stood guard outside a dinner in Virginia until historian Kenneth Smith-Christmas came across and recognised it as an Irish Army 18-pdr. From there he contacted Lar Joye in the National Museum of Ireland , not long after a team was on its way over to inspect the gun. Brought home to Ireland the ‘Ivy Patch Gun’ has now been fully restored to as it was in 1922 by the team at the Ordnance Corps in the Curragh Camp. You can red the full story of the Ivy Patch Gun prior to its restoration and its journey back to Ireland in Kenneth Smith-Christmas article by clicking here.

Photographs and full story to follow.
Big thank you to Sgt Robert Delaney Ordnance Corps and the team at the Curragh Military History Museum.

Supported by Kildare Decade of Commemorations

Posted in: Artillery, Heritage Site, Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces

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Company Sergeant Liam White (Rtd) – McKee Barracks Coy – UNFICYP – UNEF II

Company Sergeant Liam White (Rtd) – McKee Barracks Coy – UNFICYP – UNEF II

Company Sergeant Liam White (Rtd) McKee Barracks Coy


Veterans are a key to any military story; they are the people who served, they are the people who were there. Recording their story helps preserve our past and can give us lessons for the future. There isn’t a community in Ireland where you will not meet an ex-service man or women. For our Kildare Veterans and In the Service of Peace project, we met up with retired Company Sergeant Liam White, who has lived in North Kildare with his family since 1986. Many people in Celbridge may remember Liam and his wife Patricia from when they ran the Order of Malta unit in Celbridge in the 1990s.

Liam, who is originally from Dún Laoghaire, first joined the Irish Defence Forces/ Óglaigh na hÉireann in 1964 when he enlisted with B Company, 21st Infantry Battalion FCÁ. He has fond memories of marching in the annual 1916 commemorations during those early years. In 1967 Liam joined the Permanent Defence Force and was sent down to the Curragh Camp for recruit training. After passing out Liam was posted to McKee Barracks Company; the support unit for Defence Forces Headquarters. At this time the Army was only 7,500 strong. It was not long before Liam found himself on an NCO course and on 26 December 1968, he was promoted Corporal. With the outbreak of the Troubles the Defence Forces were put on high alert. Reservists were called up, and centres established to take in potential people fleeing the hostilities. When the border was established, Liam recalled periods when soldiers were meeting themselves coming off duties and patrols. The army had to expand due to the Troubles and initially there was no relief. Patrols, road blocks, and watching or hearing shootings along the border between Republicans and British Forces became the norm. On one occasion Liam collapsed after not sleeping for four days straight. One of the pictures Liam kept shows him having Christmas dinner while on the border.

In 1970 Liam was then assigned as a Cadre Training NCO with the 21st Infantry Battalion FCÁ which took him all over the battalion area of South Dublin and North Wicklow. His first deployment overseas was with the 20th Infantry Group, United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in April 1971. During this period tensions were high between the two communities on the island; the mission brought new challenges for the young Corporal. Promoted Sergeant, Liam deployed overseas again in April 1974 with the 26th Infantry Group, United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF II) in the Sinai. Not a blade of grass could be found in the blistering hot desert. The Irish men found themselves once again in between two heavily armed factions and vast areas of unexploded ordnance and mines. The unit were only settling in when the Dublin and Monaghan bombings took place at home and the unit was rapidly brought home by the end of May 1974.

Liam served in various appointments in Defence Forces Headquarters including with An Cosantóir – the Defence Forces magazine and the Chief of Staff’s Branch. Liam retired from the Defence Forces in 1989 as a Company Sergeant. Thank you to Liam for telling his story and for his long service at home and overseas.

This recording is part of our Kildare Veterans series and In the Service of Peace – exploring Ireland’s contribution to world peace: a project in conjunction with The Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel, The Irish United Nations Veterans Association and The Association of Retired Commissioned Officers. This production was made possible with support by Kildare Library Services, Kildare Creative Ireland and the Community Foundation.

Posted in: Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces, Irish Veteran, Irish Veterans, Óglaigh na hÉireann, United Nations, United Nations Mission in Cyprus

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Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nick Collier – F Troop “Blue Ghost” 8th Cavalry Regiment U S Army,1968–1971

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nick Collier – F Troop “Blue Ghost” 8th Cavalry Regiment U S  Army,1968–1971

Chief Warrant Officer 2 – Nick Collier

F Troop “Blue Ghost” 8th Cavalry Regiment U S Army,1968–1971

Nick after graduating helicopter flight school.

Carlow native Nick Collier is one of the tens of thousands who left Ireland in the 1950s and 60s to find work abroad. Leaving Ballinkillin Nick settled in the United States trained as a motor mechanic. Military service was not on his mind. His father had served in the Great War and the fledgling Irish Defence Forces, while his brother served as an Irish peacekeeper with the UN in the Congo. At the time, the Vietnam War was raging.

Enlisting in 1968, Nick soon found himself in the US Army helicopter school. He deployed to Vietnam with F Troop ‘Blue Ghost’ 8th Cavalry Regiment. F Troop “Blue Ghost” served in Vietnam from 1 April 1968, until February 26, 1973. Initially organised on 27 October, 1866 as Company F, 8th Cavalry Regiment, the troop was reactivated in Vietnam using assets of C Troop, 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment and was assigned to the “Americal” 23rd Infantry Division to provide aerial reconnaissance for the division. Flying Bell Cobra gunships, Nick would experience a different war from the air between 1968 and 1971. Following military service Nick trained as a commercial pilot and went on to become a successful engineer.

Today Nick lives in Texas where he writes poetry and plays. He has never forgotten Carlow, still calling it home he returns regularly. We captured Nick’s story on one of his visits home to Ireland.

Nick is one of the unknown number of Irish who served in Vietnam. If you know of an Irish veteran or served yourself and would like to tell your story please get in touch.

A sketch of Nick in Vietnam.

We would like to thank Irish Veterans CLG for their support in this video and Castletown House and Parklands for permission to record Nick’s story on the grounds.

Crest of F Troop “Blue Ghost”.

Posted in: Irish Diaspora, Irish Veteran, Irish Veterans, US Army, Vietnam War

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Cycling for Veterans in the Footsteps of Wellington’s Army

Cycling for Veterans in the Footsteps of Wellington’s Army

Cycling for Veterans in the Footsteps of Wellington’s Army

Cycling for Veterans in the Footsteps of Wellington’s Army

This September George Chesney is taking on a solo unsupported 450-mile cycle trip from Madrid to Bayonne, in Southern France, to raise money for SSAFA – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association: funds will be divided between SSAFANI and SSAFA Republic of Ireland. George has named the route The Wellington Trail, as it roughly follows the route taken by The Duke of Wellington’s allied armies in the latter part of the Peninsular Campaign during The Napoleonic War in 1813; a large portion of whom were Irish.

George from Ballymena, Co Antrim, is a graduate of Sandhurst and serving five years with the Royal Engineers and 24 with the Territorial Army. He is the Chair of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association Northern Ireland.

I have no idea how far I will cycle as I meander through Northern Spain, avoiding all motorways and the steepest of climbs.  No doubt there will be thrills (probably just a few) and spills (hopefully none!) as I cycle the Wellington Trail.

As with many veterans, as time goes on, bits tend to fall off but have been glued back on. Thanks to the NHS, Surgeon Mark Chapman and the staff at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Dublin this is George’s second fundraising cycle trip, and should be a breeze after successful surgical repairs earlier this year.

We look forward to updating you with George’s progress as he takes on this mammoth challenge!

Thank you to the Northern Ireland Veterans Support Office for letting us know about George’s Wellington Trail and photographs.

You can support George on his JustGiving page.

Posted in: British Army, Irish Veterans, Veteran's Welfare

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Disbandment of Irish Regiments Remembered

Disbandment of Irish Regiments Remembered

Disbandment of Irish Regiments Remembered

Photos by Peter Molloy and John O’Byrne

Sunday 12 June marks the centenary of the disbandment of the Irish regiments of the British Army from the south of Ireland.
On 12 June 1922, King George V received the Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment, The Connaught Rangers, The Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment, The Royal Munster Fusiliers and The Royal Dublin Fusiliers for safekeeping at Windsor Castle where they remain to this day. The South Irish Horse disbanded on 31 July that year.
To mark the centenary the Combined Irish Regiments Association held a parade at the Cenotaph in London this morning, while in Dublin the regimental associations will held a service in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

The Combined Irish Regiments Association organised a wonderful parade to mark the occasion. Standards were paraded in to the music of The Pipes and Drums – London Irish Rifles Association. Members on parade included the Royal British Legion, the Leinster Regiment Association, Irish Guards, Royal Irish Regiment, and the Irish Defence Forces, along with veterans and family descendants of those who served.

At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the beautiful service also remembered the disbandment of the South Irish Horse. The event was organised by the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association on behalf of all the regimental associations including: the Royal Munster Fusiliers, Connaught Rangers, 18th Reg of Foot Royal Irish Regiment Association, and the Leinster Regiment association.
To the pipes of Anthony Byrne, the regimental standards marched through the cathedral to the ‘Last of the Great Whales’. A beautiful ceremony followed with regimental songs sung by the St. Patrick’s Cathedral choir.
In attendance was the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Alison Gilliland, Ambassadors, members of the Oireachtas, the Irish Defence Forces, the Royal Irish Regiment, and descendants and family of those who served in the regiments.
Lest we forget.

Posted in: British Army, Irish Regiments, Remembrance, The Great War, Uncategorized

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Centenary Ceremony Held at Baldonnel Aerodrome

Centenary Ceremony Held at Baldonnel Aerodrome

Centenary Ceremony Held at Baldonnel Aerodrome

Photos courtesy of Defence Froces Press Office

Earlier today a centenary ceremony to mark the handover from the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1922, was held at the home of the Irish Air Corps, Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, Dublin. The Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy, the General Officer Commanding Air Corps, Brigadier General Rory O’Connor and over 1,000 serving and former members of the Air Corps attended the ceremony.

The ceremony involved a representative body of Air Corps personnel symbolically marching through the original main gate at 12.00pm. A wreath was laid to commemorate all those who died in service throughout the century followed by the raising of the National Colours and a ceremonial flypast.

Speaking at the event General Officer Commanding Air Corps, Brigadier General Rory O’Connor remembered those who came before “Irish forces marched in and took over the Camp on 3 May 1922 and since that day, Baldonnel has been the home of the Air Corps. The dedication of Air Corps personnel, the missions completed, and the lives saved, have come about through the people who have walked through these gates and gave their years’ of service, most of which can be counted in decades.”
He Continued “Looking back to what Baldonnel was like 100yrs ago, I have no doubt that those early members of the Air Corps would be very proud of the organisation that the Air Corps has become, and of all that it has achieved over the course of its first 100 years”.

Posted in: Anglo Irish War, Aviation Heritage, Irish Air Corps, Irish Defence Forces, Óglaigh na hÉireann

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Commissioning of 97th Cadet Class and 11th Potential Officers Class

Commissioning of 97th Cadet Class and 11th Potential Officers Class

Commissioning of 97th Cadet Class and 11th Potential Officers Class

Photos by John O’Byrne

Earlier today the commissioning of the 97th Cadet Class and 11th Potential Officers Class took place in Collins Barracks, Dublin. The ceremony is a very important and proud day for the members of both classes and represents the successful completion of intensive military training.

The 97th Cadet Class began their training on 5 October 2020, in the Military College, Defence Forces Training Centre. Over the course of the last 18 months they have completed numerous military, tactical, physical and academic challenges. The class is comprised of cadets from the Army, Air Corps, Ordnance Corps, Corps of Engineers and cadets from the Armed Forces of Malta.

The 24 Non-Commissioned Officer students of the 11th Potential Officers Course (POC) commenced training on the 26 April 2021, in the Military College. These students followed in the footsteps of only just over 200 NCOs who have completed a Potential Officers Course, commissioning from the ranks, as Officers of Óglaigh na hÉireann In total, the students of the 11th POC have a combined service of 409 years, with individual service ranging from 9 to 24 years respectively, and a total of 79 missions overseas in the service of the State, in countries such as Kosovo, Bosnia, Chad, Mali, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, and many more. Student individual specialisations include special forces operator, sniper, reconnaissance commander, armoured reconnaissance, logistician, administration, aircraft maintenance, human performance, electronic warfare specialists and many more skillsets from the broad spectrum of military operations.

The commissioning ceremony consisted of the Oath of Commissioning being read out by a Commissioned Officer and repeated by all Officer-Cadets. Each Officer-Cadet then marched forward in line. The Officer-Cadet then had their rank markings uncovered by an Investing Officer of The Irish Defence Forces. The Officer-Cadet then marched forward and congratulated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D. on behalf of An tUachtarán, Michael D. Higgins. The newly-Commissioned Officer then marched over to the Sergeant Major of the Cadet School, Regimental Sergeant Major Stephen O’Neill, for his/her first salute.

The Lieutenant General William Callaghan Sword is awarded to the best Potential Officer in tactical exercises and
practical leadership. It was presented by Lt. Gen. William Callaghan (RIP),
former Force Commander, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. It
consists of a sword mounted on a mahogany backing, on which a brass
plate has the following inscription:

Awarded annually to the soldier who obtained 1st place in Tactical Training and Practical Leadership Ability.

This year’s winners included Cadet Ryan Bradley and Captain Bryan Collins.

A first for a Defence Forces was the commissioning of a husband and wife team: Lieutenant Valerie Cole and Captain Philip Cole were students together on the 11th Potential Officers Course.

There to congratulate the newly commissioned cadets was the Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy,

Posted in: Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces, Óglaigh na hÉireann, Uncategorized

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ONE Launches Veterans Leadership Initiative

ONE Launches Veterans Leadership Initiative

ONE Launches Veterans’ Leadership Initiative

There are approximately 150,000 former members of the Irish Defence Forces, permanent and reserve. The majority still live in Ireland, an unknown number live abroad. Ex-service personnel go on to live very fulfilling lives and take on challenging new careers. A new initiative by the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel (ONE) sets out to explore and promote the leadership and resilience skills of former Defence Forces personnel in Irish society. On 6 April 2022, ONE will host its first ‘I Am A Veteran’ Seminar on Resilience and Leadership.

There are a wide profile of Defence Forces veterans across ages, branches, time served, and backgrounds. As part of the “I Am A Veteran” Campaign, ONE are seeking to reconnect with many former comrades to attract them into the organisation and to bring about a new way of engaging with the veterans’ community. The Seminar series initially aims to attract veterans with a career or business interest and to establish a new veteran business network.; a network of this type would bring value to the community and give a new way of engaging with ONE.

By establishing the business network, ONE seeks to identify veterans who could also serve as career mentors to some younger veterans (18-35) who have left service without much in the way of career support and guidance. The hope and aim is that if a veteran requests support, ONE will be in a position to connect them with a panel of mentors to source advice and guidance. 

Topic 1 – Walking the Walk – Reflections on Leadership

Moderated by Declan Power, Adjunct Lecturer at the NATO School and author of the film adapted book, Siege of Jadotville, Cathal Berry TD, a former officer/operator in the Army Ranger Wing, Eoin Rochford, Private Wealth Advisor at Goldman Sachs and Anita Hogan Organisational Psychologist, and Series Psychologist on RTÉ’s Ultimate Hellweekgive an account of what lessons in leadership they have taken from their Defence Forces experience and how it shapes their views of leadership as senior leaders within politics and business today.

Topic 2 – Carrying on Regardless – Instilling resilience in professional life

Led by moderator Wesley Bourke, a former journalist with An Cosantóir Magazine now the Creative Director and co-founder of The Irish Military Heritage Foundation CLG, Ray Goggins, Director at Coreskill Training & Chief Instructor of RTE’s Hell Week, Sinead Wearen, now a Behavioural Therapist with the Health Service Executive and James McCann, MD of ClearStory International, discuss the importance of resilience in their everyday professional lives and how their experiences in the Defence Forces instilled the ‘right stuff’ to carry on regardless of when it mattered.

Topic 3 – The Art of Team Building – Insights of how to build a winning team 

Moderated by Phillip Quinlan, Senior Manager, Technology at Ernst & Young, Jim Gavin, Director of People and operations, Irish Aviation Authority, Aviation Regulator, and former Dublin GAA Manager, Amy O’Connor, MD of AOC Consulting and John O’Brien, Operations Director with Manguard Plus outline their experiences in team building and what aspects are needed, from the individual to mindset, to building a winning and maintain a winning team.

Topic 4 – Does the Defence Forces create entrepreneurs? 

Moderated by Deirdre Carbery, Board Member of ONE and Rapid Response Manager at Google, Gabriel D’Arcy, Chairperson, EnergyCloud, Morgan Mangan, Partner at AMROP and Shane Henry, CEO of Reconnaissance Group discuss business building and the key lessons they took following their experience in the Defence Forces on their own entrepreneurial journey. 

Please register your interest to attend here:

Posted in: Irish Defence Forces, Irish Veterans, Óglaigh na hÉireann, Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women, Veteran's Welfare

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