Sandstorms settled in the south
of that sour place,
and terror-men opened wide a mouth
etched in a hate-filled face.
The rifle-spit struck down Malone
and he in a moment gave
a life well-lived, alone,
to set men free of the grave.
In later days men drew down
statues from on high;
they struck Iraqi ground
so dust and cheer could fly.
What, one Irish fighting man
to free millions from cold chains?
Not noble words, not gracious plan
could make real such gains.
Or--Is our time so coy,
so wild and free a thing?
Not Harvey nor Kelly, boy
of Killarn, not the Brian King
Freedom bought at such a cost,
where glory's priced so steep:
Where the name of each good man lost
Can memory's Herald keep.
-Poem by Grim, April 10th, 2003, in honor of Ian Malone
This is an annual Someone You Should Know (St. Patrick's Day Edition) post to celebrate an Irish soldier's sacrifice. Below is the story of Ian Malone - a young Irishman who bridged the divide between Ireland and England in life and death.
Ian died during the invasion of Iraq in April of 2003 doing what he wanted to do - Soldiering for his country. Below is his story, told expertly by Philip Watson of the Telegraph:
Ian's death brought people together
By Philip Watson
Lance Corporal Ian Malone died in an ambush on the streets of Basra in April last year. Throughout a long, hot Sunday, he and his armoured brigade had been pushing through the southern suburbs of Iraq's second city, flushing out enemy soldiers. While most of the regular Iraqi Army had fled, the streets and houses contained pockets of determined Fedayeen fighters, paramilitaries who remained loyal to Saddam Hussein.
Having reached the edge of the old city and achieved their objective of securing a university campus, Ian Malone and his colleagues had left their Warrior armoured personnel carrier, and were regrouping. They had scoured the area and, in the dusty shade of dusk, all seemed safe.
In an instant, however, two Fedayeen in civilian clothes broke cover and sprayed the crew with automatic fire. Four soldiers were hit. Ian Malone took two bullets - one through the neck, the other in the head - and died instantly, becoming one of 55 British soldiers killed in Iraq in the past year.
What made the 28-year-old Lance Corporal remarkable, though, apart from the peerless qualities that all who knew him instantly recognised - he was a thinker and philosopher; courteous and religious; a talented chess player and musician; an exceptional soldier; and, as his school chaplain said at his funeral, not macho but manly - was that Ian Malone was an Irishman fighting for the British Army.
Many have found in Ian Malone's life and death something profoundly symbolic: the notion that he represents the continuing spirit of progress and reconciliation between Britain and Ireland...
...Ian Malone grew up in a western suburb of Dublin not known for its pro-British allegiances: Ballyfermot is working-class, staunchly Catholic and partly republican. Known locally as the Wild West, it is an area of low-rise housing estates, high unemployment, and occasional pro-IRA graffiti - though most slogans are hastily painted over. It is the sort of marginalised city area in which expectations can be low and opportunities limited.
Ballyfermot has always, however, been an area of strong family ties, resilient community spirit, good schools and committed teachers - and from an early age, Ian, the eldest of five children, did well. He began to play chess at the age of six, later joining the local chess club. In the Army, he would often beat his commanding officers, until he was told, only half-jokingly, not to do it too often because it was bad for morale.
At the local Christian Brothers secondary school, he shone academically, yet his more stubborn, non-conformist nature also began to surface. For one mock exam for his Leaving Certificate, the equivalent of A-Levels, he was given zero for writing one-sentence answers, later claiming it was all a waste of time, as the teacher knew that he knew more than that. Shortly afterwards, he refused to sit his final exams, insisting that he would take them a year later, which he did, with some success. For the next three years, however, he had an assortment of manual jobs. He was mostly restless and unsettled.
His waywardness was reined in by compensatory disciplines. In his teens, he briefly took up boxing, but found greater fulfilment in the controlled power of martial arts, becoming local under-16s karate champion. Although Ian Malone was tall and skinny for his age, he also had great strength and stamina.
His dedication was primarily reserved, though, for the FCA, the Irish version of the Territorial Army. Having joined when he was 15, he spent one night a week and every Sunday morning training at a barracks four miles away. He also went on three-week summer camps.
This experience inspired him to pursue a career in the Irish Defence Forces. His maternal grandfather had served in the Irish Army and it seemed a logical progression from the Reserves. He was to be disappointed: in the mid-1990s, Ireland's defence forces were only recruiting school-leavers up to the age of 18. Ian was 21.
Undeterred, he researched careers in the French Foreign Legion and the British Army and discussed opportunities with his former school chaplain, Father David Lumsden. "I remember that we'd both seen the Laurel and Hardy films, in which they go off and join the French Foreign Legion, so we instantly rejected that option," says Fr Lumsden. "We knew how tough it would be."
In 1997, Ian Malone applied to the Irish Guards, a regiment with a long and proud history within the British Army. Formed in 1900 by order of Queen Victoria to mark the conspicuous bravery of the Irish soldiers who fought in the Boer War, the Micks, as the Guards are universally known, played an important role in both World Wars. Until recently, the battalion was presented with shamrock on St Patrick's Day by the Queen Mother; at her funeral, eight members of the Irish Guards - two of whom were from the republic - carried the royal coffin.
Ian Malone's decision also had a long historical precedent. Almost 150,000 Irish soldiers fought in the First World War; 49,000 died. More than 60,000 Irishmen - more than from loyal Ulster - also saw action in the Second World War; like their compatriots in the Great War, all were volunteers.
As one of 400 or more men from the republic then serving in the British Army, some of them stationed in Northern Ireland, Ian Malone was part of a familiar Irish story of economic emigration - he was seeking work abroad when there was little at home. And never having left the country, he was no doubt seeking travel and adventure, too.
It took him three attempts to be accepted; he was underweight and he had problems with his eyesight. Yet in one Army test, Ian was found to have an IQ of 130 and he was offered the possibility of officer training or joining the RAF. He declined both, saying that foot soldiering and the Irish Guards were for him.
In 1997, he travelled to Catterick in North Yorkshire for training. That winter, he sent Father Lumsden a Christmas card in which he wrote how much he was enjoying himself. "He was bubbling over with enthusiasm and finished by saying that we had made the right decision." Ian Malone would send the chaplain a Christmas card every year after.
His family also noted a change in him. "I honestly didn't expect Ian to last, but when he came home the first time, I sensed that he'd discovered what he was looking for," says his mother, May.
"He was happier in himself and had definitely found his calling. Ian enjoyed every minute of being in the Army."
He soon joined 1st battalion in its base at Munster in Germany, and over the next five years was sent on tours to more than 20 countries, including Canada, Poland, Oman, Afghanistan and Korea. After completing a pipers' course in 1999 he joined the Pipe Band; just as he was a born soldier, Ian Malone was a natural musician. Promoted to lance corporal, Ian saw action in Kosovo in 2000. Just before he was sent to Iraq, he had begun his lance-sergeant's course.
A keen short story writer and an avid reader of history and archaeology, he had also persuaded the Army to fund an Open University degree course in English and History. It was an irony, therefore, that Ian Malone was killed in the grounds of Basra's College of Literature.
Throughout all this time, Lance Corporal Malone cleverly negotiated the paradoxes of being an Irishman in the British Army. He swore fealty to the Queen and learned to sing the British national anthem. Yet in barracks and pubs, he stayed resolutely and proudly Irish and, along with most of his regiment, would sing noisy renditions of such popular Irish songs as The Fields of Athenry.
Army life could have been isolated and lonely for an Irishman, a national no man's land. Yet Ian Malone seemed too self-possessed and self-aware to let such challenges affect him.
Two years after Ian had signed up to the Pipers, another non-Briton joined the regiment: Christopher Muzvuru, from Zimbabwe, was the first black piper in the Irish Guards, and he and Ian Malone became friends. Both loved Guinness; both were gifted pipers. At dawn on the day of the ambush in Basra, Ian and Christopher were seen playing traditional Irish tunes on their chanters, small pipes kept for practice. Christopher Muzvuru, 21, was to die alongside Ian Malone in the attack.
At the end of April last year, Guardsman Malone was given a huge funeral in Ballyfermot, during which British soldiers were seen in uniform on the streets of Dublin for the first time since the civil war in 1922.
At the funeral mass, several men wore British military blazers, uniforms and medals; it was the first time many in the congregation had felt free to do so in public. In his oration, a British Army chaplain talked about the tortuous relationship between Britain and Ireland, its tragedies and heroics, and the way the Irish Guards had always brought people from differing traditions together. He was given long and spontaneous applause.
As the coffin was taken up by a bearer party of Irish Guardsmen and led out of the church, two pipers played traditional laments; one piper was from the British Army, the other from the Irish Defence Forces. As the cortège passed, local policemen saluted. Finally, at the cemetery, the Irish Guards' regimental colonel, the Duke of Abercorn, stepped forward to present May Malone with her son's piper's cap.
This week, May Malone attended the St Patrick's Day presentation - by the Princess Royal - of shamrock to the Irish Guards in south Armagh. A year after her son's death, it is clear how much she continues to suffer.
The war, she said, should never have happened, there was no need for it, but she tried not to be bitter about his death because that was not what Ian would have wanted.
"People in Ireland go on saying men died for our freedom," Ian Malone once told an Irish television documentary, summing up his feelings about being in the British Army. "But they died to give men like me the freedom to choose what I want to do."
Paul Harraghy, who was one of Ian's pallbearers, believes his friend's death may have improved the relationship between Ireland and Britain. "I think the reason the British Army chaplain received such an ovation was because he reminded us that what unifies people in Ireland and Britain is far greater than what divides us, or what we think divides us."
It is a sentiment echoed at the foot of Ian Malone's gravestone in Palmerstown cemetery in Dublin. Beneath a photograph of him in jacket and tie, an engraved chess piece (a king, naturally) and the inscription that he died in the cause of freedom, is the Latin phrase that was Ian Malone's regimental motto: Quis separabit - who shall separate us.
Godspeed, Ian, Godspeed.