By Mike Strasser, West Point Public AffairsOctober 6, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 6, 2011) -- Michael Healy, Class of 1969, returned to his alma mater Sept. 30 to donate several items to the West Point Museum.
Healy's uncle, Father Casimir Keydash, was a Catholic chaplain who served in the 378th Infantry Regiment, 95th Infantry Division, during World War II, landing at Normandy after the first wave of troops stormed the beach.
Keydash was in the front lines administering last rites to Soldiers killed in action and conducted religious mass services in the field.
Healy recently came into possession of his uncle's field mass kit and decided the right thing would be to donate it to a military museum.
"It's in the hands of professionals now, so I'm very grateful for that and I know my uncle would be too," Healy said.
In addition to the field kit, which contains a chalice, host dish, candlesticks, cross and a small portable wooden altar, Healy donated his uncle's steel helmet and liner and a collection of WWII field photos found in family albums.
His uncle, the oldest of 12 children and son of Lithuanian immigrants, was born in Baltimore in 1906. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1938.
Typical of the "Greatest Generation," Healy said neither his father nor his uncle spoke much of their service during the war, but they influenced his own decision to serve in the military and attend West Point.
"It's certainly an honor for me to be able to commemorate and honor my uncle in this way," Healy said. "I'm very appreciative for the opportunity to donate this to the museum."
David Reel, West Point Museum director, presented Healy and his wife, Victoria, with a commemorative medallion, given to those who have aided the museum in "preserving America's military heritage."
"The provenance related to the (donated) artifacts is what it important," Reel said. "The ability to show images of the actual pieces used onsite and on location in Germany during WWII is remarkable. The association with Mr. Healy is also important for us to tie the story to our local constituents."
Reel said the West Point Museum prides itself on displaying original artifacts used by a particular person at a particular place and in conjunction with a specific event.
This donation met all the criteria to become an invaluable addition to the Museum.
"The items have become part of the U.S. Army Historical Collection administered by the West Point Museum," Reel said. "The pieces will be used for training, educating and inspiring the Corps of Cadets and the American public; and will be incorporated into rotating displays within the Museum. The pieces may also be featured as part of our ongoing display of new acquisitions."