When the Kilmaine Saints, a high energy Celtic Rock band from Central Pennsylvania, took the stage at Montage Mountain during the Scranton Celtic Festival last May, fans admired the band as they performed their version of a Scottish ballad entitled “Sgt. MacKenzie” to honor all military personnel and their family members.
Originally written and sung by Joe Kilna MacKenzie, a Scottish musician who died in 2009, as a heartfelt tribute to his great grandfather Sgt. Charles MacKenzie, the ballad was inspired by an account of events describing the sergeant losing his life in World War I while bravely defending one of his badly injured fellow soldiers in hand-to-hand combat during trench warfare.
The unique and haunting lament received an overwhelming amount of recognition and was featured in 2002 on the soundtrack to the American war film “We Were Soldiers” starring Mel Gibson.
Among the fans at the Celtic Music Festival were Patrick Gilroy, and other members, some veterans, of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), JFK Division #1, an Irish Catholic fraternal charity organization.
After spotting Kilmaine Saints lead singer Brendan Power meandering through the crowd, the AOH members approached him.
“We thanked him for his interest in the military,” said Gilroy, “and after talking, suggested the idea of a concert to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.”
The Wounded Warrior Project is a nationwide nonprofit and donation-based organization with a mission to “honor and empower Wounded Warriors” and their family members that arose following the events of 9/11.
According to the organization’s official website, as of Jan. 2014, approximately 51,778 U.S soldiers have been physically wounded, 320,000 have experienced traumatic brain injuries while deployed, and 400,000 service members live with invisible wounds, such as combat related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, all related to recent military conflicts.
The Wounded Warrior Project takes both a hands-on and a holistic approach in supporting service members and their families by offering immediate financial assistance when necessary as well as therapeutic and functional programs designed to aid in developing new coping skills, providing opportunities for families to network, peer mentoring, adapting to the transitions of homecoming, and obtaining long-term employment and health benefits hoping “to foster the most well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.”
“Brendan said that he thought it would be great, so we planned it for February and it just took off from there,” said Gilroy on behalf of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who are sponsoring the concert.
With March, the month of the Irish, approaching quickly, the Wounded Warrior benefit concert will kick the Kilmaine Saints into their full schedule early. They are set to play the Greater Pittston St. Patrick’s Parade on March 8, the Bethlehem St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 15, the After NYC St. Pat’s Parade in New York on March 17, and at Washington D.C.’s Shamrock Fest on March 22.
The concert is set for Saturday, Feb. 22 at St. John Neumann Parish (633 Orchard St., Scranton). Doors will open at 6:30 and tickets are available through the AOH official Facebook page at facebook.com/aohjfk1 and through e-mail at [email protected] All proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.