Navy Cross winner Patrick “Bob” Gallagher.
By Ray O’Hanlon
The Ancient Order of Hibernians are this week lauding the move by Senator Charles Schumer aimed at having a U.S. Navy ship named after Vietnam War hero and County Mayo native Patrick “Bob” Gallagher.
In a joint statement, AOH National President Judge James McKay, Veteran Affairs Chairman James R. Green, and Political Education Chairman Neil F. Cosgrove said the Hibernians applauded and supported Schumer’s call to name a U.S. Navy destroyer after Gallagher, an immigrant from Ballyhaunis who settled on Long Island.
Said the statement in part: “The Ancient Order of Hibernians applauds and supports U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer’s call to name a U.S. Navy destroyer after LCpl. Patrick Gallagher, an immigrant from Ballyhaunis, Co, Mayo, Ireland.
“It is the Navy’s tradition to name destroyers after U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard heroes. LCpl Gallagher is one of a ‘long green line’ of Irish immigrants who have served their adopted country faithfully and with distinction since the earliest days of the nation.
“We believe that the naming of a Navy destroyer for LCpl. Gallagher is an appropriate opportunity for America to honor this fallen hero in the spirit of this great tradition.”
And the statement continued in part: “As countless immigrants have done before him, Patrick Gallagher came to this country for an opportunity to be part of the American dream.
“The young immigrant fully embraced the opportunities of this great nation; he studied law while working in real estate; even becoming involved in local politics as a campaign worker for Senator Robert Kennedy.
“In 1966, Patrick was drafted for service in Vietnam. It would have been easy for Patrick to simply return to Ireland to avoid serving our nation in the military, but instead he answered America’s call to service even though he was not yet a citizen.
“Demonstrating such fidelity to duty, it was no surprise that Patrick chose the U.S. Marines after swearing local family members to secrecy to prevent his family in Ireland from worrying about him.
“Patrick showed the same devotion to duty when his unit came under attack at Cam Lo. When a grenade fell between his comrades, Patrick selflessly threw himself on the grenade in an unselfish act of valor, fully intending to absorb the blast and save his comrades lives at the cost of his own.
“Miraculously, the grenade was prevented from exploding due to LCpl. Gallagher pinning it under his body. LCpl. Patrick Gallagher continued to lie upon the live grenade while under continuous enemy fire, with additional grenades exploding around him, allowing his comrades to fallback to a more secure position.
“Only when his fellow Marines were safe did LCpl. Gallagher roll off and throw the enemy grenade where it immediately exploded without injury to his fellow Marines. Sadly, though he survived the action at Cam Lo, LCpl. Gallagher would later be killed on a patrol he volunteered for on the day before he was to return home.
“The citation for LCpl. Gallagher’s Navy Cross states: ‘Through his extraordinary heroism and inspiring valor in the face of almost certain death, he saved his comrades from probable injury and possible loss of life. His daring actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.’
“The Hibernians completely agree with that assessment. With extreme disappointment, we have read that LCpl. Gallagher was originally nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the award was downgraded by someone in his command in the mistaken belief that his surviving his act of selfless valor disqualified him for our nation’s highest honor. It is our hope that Senator Schumer, and the rest of the U.S. Congress, will support rectifying that mistake also.”
The AOH statement concluded: “The Hibernians commend Senator Schumer’s leadership in recognizing the valor of LCpl. Gallagher and acting to see it is appropriately recognized by supporting the effort to have a U.S. Navy Destroyer bear his name.
“The Hibernians believe the legacy of Patrick Gallagher, a story of bravery and devotion to country and comrades, would inspire all who would serve on a Destroyer so designated. The ship would also be a fitting tribute to the role that immigrants have played in defending our county, specifically the 3,000 Irish born men and women who served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam and the 29, including LCpl. Gallagher, who lost their lives in action there.
“We ask our fellow Hibernians and Americans to support Senator Schumer in his noble cause to recognize the heroism of LCpl. Gallagher by encouraging their Senate and Congressional representatives to back his efforts to name a U.S. Navy destroyer for this Marine hero who displayed incredible courage and selfless valor in the cause of his adopted country.”