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US General with Irish Roots Made Honorary British Knight

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey

A retired U.S. Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with Irish roots has been made an honorary British knight.

Martin Dempsey, who retired September 2015 after serving 41 years in the Army, has received an honorary knighthood of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, according to a press release on Monday from the British embassy in Washington, D.C.

The honor "was awarded in recognition of General Dempsey's steadfast commitment to UK-US defence cooperation," it states. "Throughout his years in public service, he has fostered trust and understanding between the UK's Ministry of Defence and the Pentagon. His leadership has been a driving force behind closer collaboration in all aspects of policy, operations and welfare."

The release singles out his 2013 reconvening of the Combined Chiefs of Staff Conference, which was initially established to better direct U.S.-British operations during World War II.

Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the U.S., will present the award to Dempsey at a later date, Kelly Hysan, a spokeswoman for the embassy, said in an email to Military.com.

"The UK-US relationship is critical to much of the UK’s defence and security architecture, and General Dempsey has played a crucial role in maintaining the strong bonds between our two militaries," Darroch said in the release.

"It was an honor to serve side by side with the extraordinary and courageous men and women of the British Armed Forces for the past 40 years in peace and in war," Dempsey said in the release. "We 'few, we happy few' are partners by necessity, but we are friends by choice," he added, quoting a line from Shakespeare's play, "Henry V."

"I accept this honor on behalf of those who have sacrificed so much for our two countries, and I thank Her Majesty the Queen for her steadfast support for those who continue to serve and their families," Dempsey said.

The West Point graduate, is famously proud of his Irish-Catholic heritage. He speaks Gaelic, sings Irish ballads and once wrote a graduate paper on W.B. Yeats' poem, "Easter 1916" about the uprising in Ireland against British rule during World War I, according to a profile in Bloomberg.

The retired general received a master's degree in English from Duke University, where he took a course on 20th-century British literature and wrote about Yeats, World War I poets and Joseph Conrad's novel, "The Secret Agent," according to the profile. He taught at West Point earlier in his Army career.

Dempsey met his wife Deanie at a Catholic high school in upstate New York and the couple has three children, all of whom served as Army officers, according to the profile.

While many U.S. and allied troops -- and civilians alike -- already refer to the general as "sir," that isn't necessarily required with his latest title, according to the embassy's release.

"As an honorary knight General Dempsey does not have the prefix Sir, but can use the letters KBE after his name if he so wishes," it states.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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