The keel is laid. The USS Patrick Gallagher is on the way.
It is a ways-off yet. But only just over the horizon.
The full construction of the U.S. Navy destroyer named after Mayo-born Vietnam war hero Patrick "Bob" Gallagher will take the process to the end of next year, or early into 2024.
But the process itself has been launched by way of the keel laying ceremony which took place before a small invited gathering at Bath Iron Works in Maine last week.
Said a release from the U.S. Navy: "A contemporary keel laying ceremony recognizes the moment of a ship’s construction when two significant pieces of the hull structure are welded together and joined, constituting a major portion of the ship’s shape.
"The authentication or etching of the ship sponsors’ initials into a ceremonial keel plate will take place during the ceremony. The sponsors of DDG 127 are Gallagher’s three sisters: Teresa Keegan, Rosemarie Gallagher, and Pauline Gallagher."
The keel laying ceremony lasted roughly two hours and Patrick's sister Pauline spoke to the gathering.
Martin Durkan, one of the lead campaigners down the years to name the ship in honor of Patrick Gallagher, noted how shipyard workers listened in complete and respectful silence as Pauline spoke of her brother and what it means to the Gallagher family to have the ship named after him.
All work in the yards had ceased for the ceremony, Durkan said.
In a release, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works said it had celebrated the keel laying of the future USS Patrick Gallagher (DDG 127) on March 30.
"The sponsors authenticated the keel by striking welding arcs onto a steel plate that will be incorporated into the ship. They were assisted by Edward Hayes, a senior welder with 33 years’ experience at BIW who is helping build DDG 127. The laying of the keel and its authentication signifies the start of hull integration and is the precursor to final integration, launch and sea trials.
"Chris Waaler, vice president of programs and planning for Bath Iron Works, hosted the ceremony and welcomed the audience, which included retired General Walter E. Boomer, former assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, retired Brigadier General Michael I. Neil, a Navy Cross recipient and members of Gallagher’s unit in Vietnam."
Said Waaler: “More than 1,000 men and women have worked on this ship since we first cut steel. We will ensure this ship will be ready to nobly serve our nation, as Corporal Gallagher did for the Marine Corps in Vietnam.”
Martin Brennan, New York State Director for Senator Charles Schumer - who played a pivotal role in securing the Gallagher name on what will be the last of the Arleigh Burke Class ships - described the keel laying ceremony as being wonderful.
"The highlight was meeting all the relatives from Ireland, not to mention the sheer awesome spectacle of seeing up close such a large and complicated ship itself being crafted," Brennan said.
Senator Schumer, in a statement, said: “I am beyond pleased that Patrick Gallagher’s family in America and Ireland got to witness first-hand the awesome sight of a sleek and imposing United States Navy destroyer – that will soon bear their hero brother’s name – speedily taking shape.
"All present were deeply moved by the retelling of Patrick Gallagher’s stunning courage, and by Pauline Gallagher’s reading of her brother’s letter home. And all were equally awed by the massive hull of the destroyer being constructed by the world-class workers at the Bath Iron Works Shipyard in Maine.
"Now that the keel has been laid, we all wait with bated breath for the launch and christening of the USS Patrick Gallagher.”