The following was read by Michele, Joseph's niece Crossing the bar Sunset and evening star And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar When I put out to sea, But such a tide as moving seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep Turns again home. Twilight and evening bell, And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark; For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place The flood may bear me far I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have cross'd the bar. by Alfred Tennyson "Crossing the bar" refers to the death of a mariner. The phrase has its origin in the fact that most rivers and bays develop a sandbar across their entrances, and "crossing the bar" meant leaving the safety of the harbor for the unknown.
MEMORIAL CEREMONY JOSEPH VICTOR McKENNY 17 APRIL 2003 We are gathered today in this beautiful site to honor the memory of Joseph Victor McKenny. Some of us may recall the last time our family gathered here - fifty paces down this road. In 1969 to bury my father and Joseph's brother, Commander David Francis McKenney. While that day 34 years ago was a sad day for our family, I find our purpose here today not sad at all. Today marks the end of a process that has taken years to learn about Joseph, the circumstances of his death and to mark his memory and his sacrifice for his nation indefinitely. This hour will bring our efforts to a successful close by blessing his memory, providing Joseph McKenney with his due military honors and then joining together in prayer for the well being of his soul. In reaching this day, I would like to thank my family and friends for their support and patience, the hospitality of the Wilmington National Cemetery and the participation of St. Mary's Catholic Church, our former parish. I would like to also recognize Congressman Michael McIntyre, whose office provided valuable assistance resolving several issues regarding this matter. Finally, I would like to give a special thanks to the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the US Marine detail here today for the presentation of military honors. Who was Joseph Victor McKenny? I never met Joseph. In fact, no one here today met Joseph either. He died before almost all of us here today were born; died at a young age in the service of his country without the chance to live a long life that many of us take for granted. While I never met Joseph, I have learned a great deal about him. Joseph was born in New York City as one of 5 children on Armistice Day, the real Armistice Day - 11 November 1918. That day marked the end of the first terrible World War. In recognition of that great event, my grandparents gave Joseph the middle name Victor, and later his brothers and sister gave him the nick name of Pershing, after Gen. John Joseph Pershing, the Commander of the US Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I. Joseph grew up in a comfortable home with his parents and brothers and sister. They were a happy and close family. Joseph's father immigrated from Dromara in County Down, Northern Ireland as a young man and taught his children to respect the freedoms that our nation offered those willing to respect its laws. Joseph's brothers and sister grew to be hard working honorable adults and Joseph was no exception. We know little about his childhood other than generalities. As the youngest child, he most likely had the most attention and the easiest childhood, and as most boys of Irish-American descent in New York City, he attended school as long as he could bear it. With the opportunities that America offered and the ambitions of such children, the teen-agers were normally very eager to begin careers and make their place in the world. Again, Joseph was no exception. He entered the merchant marine in 1936 in an administrative capacity serving upon commercial vessels sailing between New York City and South America and later Europe. Joseph's dedication to his work and his search for more complex duties were soon recognized by his superiors and he earned a series of promotions and higher ratings. Joseph was awarded a rating as Chief Purser in 1940 at the age of 22, four years following his entrance into the merchant marine. Joseph received high marks from the masters of the ships upon which he served and was well liked by his colleagues and shipmates. He was described as having a professional manner and a good sense of humor... and had a very successful and promising life ahead of him. With the entry of the Unites States into World War II, Joseph volunteered to join the US Navy and serve as a junior officer at sea. However, due to an acute shortage of qualified ships' officers in the merchant marine, the US Navy requested him to remain in a civilian capacity and serve his nation in the transportation of troops and material in support of the war effort. To this end, Joseph enlisted in the US War Department's Army Transport Service, an arm of the US Army. As to be expected he served admirably aboard vessels travelling in convoy to Europe with troops and supplies. On his last voyage, he sailed aboard the US Army Transport Oneida, with a cargo of steel, aviation gasoline, explosives and foodstuffs, in a convoy from New York City through Guantanimo Bay, Cuba to Australia. A few days from port, the Oneida developed engine trouble in heavy seas, began to take on water and on 3 May 1943 dropped out of the convoy with two other "stragglers". During that evening, in a heavy storm, the Oneida sighted a German submarine, almost colliding with that enemy vessel. The Captain set a course for land, Norfolk, VA, and then called the crew and the gun crews to general quarters to prepare for an attack from the submarine. Military gun crews were to man their battle stations and civilians were to assemble at their muster stations; all were to don life vests. As time passed and the storm worsened, the captain relaxed general quarters as he thought that he had eluded the enemy vessel in the heavy rain and seas. However, in the early morning hours of May 4, 1943, still in a violent storm, two torpedoes struck the Oneida, shaking the ship from stem to stern. The Captain stated that he barely had time to give a few superficial orders to clear the ship before it began to sink headfirst into the sea. The Captain last saw Joseph securing the ship's money and records, which were Joseph's responsibility in such a situation and ordered him off the ship, but Joseph remained in the cabins to assist others onto the deck. It was this action that delayed Joseph in putting on his life saving jacket, which most likely resulted in his death. The Oneida sank 100 miles off the shore of Norfolk, VA about one and one-half minutes after the torpedo explosions. Several US Navy vessels in the area saw the distress flares from the Oneida and came to its rescue. Some of the crew were saved, but Joseph and 35 other men of a crew of 62 were lost at sea. Joseph Victor McKenny, a young man of only 23 years, honourable, dependable - a volunteer in the service and defence of his nation - died at his duty station and in the rescue of his shipmates in the darkness of 4 May 1943. Many Americans responded to the call to defend our nation. They served unselfishly until their job was completed. Some gave years of their lives and some their life, itself. Young men, honourable men, brave men. Men like Joseph. Today, sixty years later, near the end of the generation that would remember these men, the memory and sacrifice of Joseph McKenny was almost forgotten. We now stand near the stone that commemorates this man and his valiant actions forever and we give thanks for that life. Patrick McKenney
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