On Memorial Day, our yearly remembrance of those who have died in active military service to the United States Armed Forces, I think of my maternal grandmother’s brother, a Scottish immigrant named Peter Rooney. Peter’s story is the same as that of countless immigrants. As such, one might say Peter was unremarkable, ordinary.
Peter was born in 1919 in Scotland. In 1927, at the age of 8, Peter, his siblings, and his mother journeyed to New York to join his father, who had previously emigrated and settled in Bronx, New York. Like all immigrant families, the Rooneys worked hard to make a life for themselves in the United States. To support his family, Peter’s father worked as a janitor; Peter left high school after two years and worked as an elevator operator, likely in an effort to ease his father’s financial burden. In 1942, young Peter’s life changed forever when he enlisted in the United States Army. At that moment, Peter Rooney ceased to be ordinary. The unremarkable immigrant became extraordinary, for all who serve our country with honor can be considered nothing less.
On Tuesday, July 11th, 1944, at just 25 years of age, Peter was killed in action 1/8th mile northeast of Fossardiere, France. Peter was buried in the Normandy American Cemetery in France and posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
As is all too often the case, Peter’s story was lost in the rush of life. Until recently, my cousins and I knew only that our grandmother had a brother who died in WWII. Genealogical research uncovered details of Peter’s life and military service, and later this summer, Peter’s name will be entered into the Roll of Honor at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New York. Acknowledgement of his sacrifice is long overdue!
Private Peter Rooney, United States Army, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, I salute you, sir, and I thank you for your service. On a more personal note, Great Uncle Peter, I am deeply honored to be a part of your family.
For more information about the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, log onto www.thepurpleheart.com.