John Gorman's long, and often lonely, campaign to seek recognition for the Jadotville soldiers culminated with last Saturday's memorable medal ceremony in Custume Barracks.
A marquee erected for the ceremony was packed to capacity, while hundreds more relatives and friends of the veterans saw the afternoon's proceedings being broadcast live on a big screen in the barracks' gym.
The awarding of the medals followed on from last year's unit citation ceremony held in Athlone in recognition of the Jadotville soldiers.
John was just seventeen when he served in the Congo. Speaking to reporters after last weekend's event, he said he was delighted recognition had arrived at last.
"It is a very emotional day. It’s taken me 18 years (to get to this stage). I was insulted, and told where to go by senior people, but I told them I didn’t understand the word 'no', I only understand one word and that's 'yes'.
"It's a great day and I am delighted because I love all the veterans and I love all the families of the deceased members.
"I'm so happy for them, and I hope to God that the people up above are looking down on us because a lot of them never got any recognition whatsoever."
The Horseleap resident said there was "never a day" that he didn't think about Jadotville. He added that the trauma of the siege had contributed to mental health difficulties, alcohol problems, and other issues for some of the men who served there.
There was no support - and certainly no counselling - provided for the soldiers upon their return to Ireland.
"There was nobody to say, ‘well, how are you?’ If I met one of (the veterans) on the street, or in the barracks, one thing we would never mention was Jadotville. It’s well-mentioned now, it’s out there now, and I’m delighted."
John agreed that this was "mission accomplished" for his recognition campaign, after almost two decades.
"It’s the end of the road for me now. I don’t know what I’ll do (next). I might write a book, but I’d be afraid I’d end up in Mountjoy!" he laughed.