An online petition has been started to have a US Navy destroyer’s named after a Mayoman, Patrick (‘Bob’) Gallagher, who was killed in Vietnam.
The campaign is asking that the Destroyer Class DDG Ship be named in 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.
On March 30, 1967 Gallagher was shot dead while on patrol in Da Nang. He was 23 years old.
His sister Margaret Walsh, who lives in Florida, told NY Daily News “It was a terrible time.
“Your son killed for a foreign country, and he was only here a year and a half.”
His funeral was a huge event in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo. At the funeral were the families of Christopher Nevin (29) from Balla in Mayo, killed in Vietnam in February 1966, and of Brian Óg Freyne (21) from Ballaghaderreen in Roscommon, killed in Vietnam in March 1967.
In 1962 Gallagher had traveled from Derrintogher, near Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo to stay with his aunt in New York. He worked in real estate and studied law. He also campaigned for Senator Robert Kennedy, in 1964.
In February 1966 Gallagher returned home for three weeks. He did not tell his family that he had been drafted and joined the Marine Corps. In April 1966 he was deployed to Vietnam.
On July 18, 1966 he saved the lives of his three comrades and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy's highest honor.
According to the petition, Gallagher and three others were "manning a defense post" when they came under attack. "Patrick kicked a grenade out of their position before it exploded" and then, according to the Navy Cross citation, "... another enemy grenade followed and landed in the position between two of his comrades. Without hesitation, in a valiant act of self-sacrifice, Corporal Gallagher threw himself upon the deadly grenade in order to absorb the explosion and save the lives of his comrades.
"As the three other marines ran to safety two further grenades landed in the position and exploded, 'miraculously injuring nobody.' Patrick's squad leader ordered him to throw the grenade he was lying on into a nearby river. It exploded on hitting the water. '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.'"
The people of Ballyhaunis heard of his bravery and planned great celebrations for his homecoming. However, instead of celebrating his valor they buried him.
Bobby Kennedy wrote to Gallagher’s family after his death. He quoted Winston Churchill saying “courage is rightly esteemed as the first of all human qualities because it is the one that guarantees all others.”
"This courage Corporal Gallagher gave to all of us. To him and to his family are due the thanks of a humbly grateful nation."
According to a report in the Irish Times, in 2013 a group of Irishmen were discussing Gallagher’s tale at Marius Donnelly’s Trinity Hall pub, in Dallas, Texas. Pilot Martin Durkan, from Ballyhaunis, was present and supplied details of Patrick Gallagher’s story. Marius Donnelly, who owns the pub, launched the campaign to have the ship named in Gallagher's honor. The New York Daily News adds that former Marine Donald O'Keefe from the Bronx is campaigning for Gallagher to get the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The online petition which can be found at www.patrickgallagherusmc.info and is titled “Help Us Honor A Marine Corps Hero”.
The petition states:
“This would be a unique way for our country to say thank you for your shining example, courageous selflessness in defense of your fellow Marines, and your mission. There would be no better recognition of this service & commitment than a powerful modern vessel out in the world at sea, under the US Navy Flag, carrying the name of one of her immigrant heroes!”