MOH Recipient Francis Kelly to get permanent grave marker

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MOH Recipient Francis Kelly to get permanent grave marker

I held off on posting this because I was sure the VA would make the right decision and I didn't want to unleash the masses on them until they got a chance to do so.  They did, so no need to hold this one.

First, some background, from Wikipedia:

Francis Kelly enlisted in the US Navy from his birth state, Massachusetts, and served as a watertender in the collier USS Merrimac during the Spanish–American War. Kelly was one of eight volunteer crew members when Rear Admiral William T. Sampson ordered Merrimac sunk to block the entrance of Santiago Harbor, Cuba. On the night of 2-June 3, 1898, during the attempt to execute this mission, Merrimac's steering gear was disabled by enemy gunfire, and she sank without obstructing navigation. Her crewmen were rescued by the Spanish and made prisoners-of-war. After the Battle of Santiago de Cuba destroyed the Spanish fleet a month later, Kelly and his shipmates were released. For his actions during this operation, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Francis Kelly remained in the Navy after the Spanish–American War, ultimately obtaining the rank of chief machinist's mate. He is buried at Sandymount Cemetery, Glasgow, Scotland.

Last week a call went out from a mutual Facebook friend:

Buried one mile from where I live in Scotland. It was an unmarked grave and some Parachute Regiment Veterans had the cross made to mark his final resting place. Perhaps the US Navy would be willing to put a permanent headstone in place especially for a recipient of the Medal Of Honour....

For years his grave was marked with a tiny wooden stake – until Lachlan MacNeil and a group of ex-paras from the Airborne Forces -Association ¬Scotland found it. They cleaned it up and, on Sunday, they held an official ceremony marking the unveiling of the new grave. Lachlan said: “It only seemed right that we tidied up his grave and mark it in a way befitting such a man.”

The guys in Scotland reached out to the Medal of Honor Society (Brits spell that with a "u" above) who in turn reached out to VA:

"A request was put in to our Veterans Administration for a gravemarker made of more durable materials. Unfortunately, he is not considered eligible for a Veterans Affairs-supplied stone because his gravesite is considered marked according to their rules. "

This is one of those cases where the law about the headstones doesn't take into account common sense.  Because the grave was marked, it didn't meet the official criteria set out in law.  But credit to the VA, they reached out to their General Counsel to see what they could do, and as I suspected at the time, they came to the right decision.  Thomas Howard, Chief of Staff to the National Cemetery Administration reached out to the group and let them know he was working with the cemetery in Scotland to see it was completed.

Somewhat interestingly, USS Merrimac is still there, in one piece:

As is customary for MOH's of the time, the citation lacks much flavor:

In connection with the sinking of the U.S.S. Merrimac at the entrance to the harbor of Santiago de Cuba, June 2, 1898. Despite heavy fire from the Spanish batteries, KELLY displayed extraordinary heroism throughout this operation.

Anyway, glad to see we are doing the right thing for one of our fallen heroes.  And kudos to our brothers across the pond for identifying this and giving our guy the proper treatment.  /Salute

Posted in the burner | 3 comments
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This is still not a given as we are now facing a bureaucratic battle with Officials in Glasgow Scotland. We have now had to get help from a Member of the Scottish Parliament as we are not being responded to by Glasgow City Council.

Quick update guys. The headstone was installed today Oct 15th 2018. I made a short youtube clip which you can find if you search Francis Kelly Medal Of Honor Headstone In Place.

The black mark on the headstone is water.


Good drills Pete. It's only fitting that this hero's grave is suitably marked. Respect to you for achieving this.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.