Corporal Patrick Gallagher was killed in action just days before he was set to finish his tour of duty in Vietnam. He died for America without ever becoming a U.S. citizen.
Standing on Pier 84 in Manhattan alongside the USS Intrepid, New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced that the newest US Navy destroyer is to be officially named after Co. Mayo man Corporal Patrick “Bob” Gallagher, a Vietnam war hero and a Naval Cross Awardee.
The announcement ends a five-year campaign, which started out in Texas, to have the Irish man recognized for his heroic actions. He was honored for the bravery and valor he showed in fighting for the U.S, despite him not being a US citizen during his service. In fact, Gallagher was never to become a citizen as he was killed in action just days before he was due to return from Vietnam.
“The green and red of Mayo, which was never far from his heart, was replaced by the red, white and blue of Old Glory when Patrick Gallagher became a US Marine for his adopted nation,” said Schumer.
Corporal Patrick Gallagher was an Irish immigrant from Ballyhaunis, County Mayo who settled on Long Island in 1962, volunteered on the senate campaign of Bobby Kennedy and later chose to serve in the Marines Corps of his adopted nation.
While serving in Vietnam, Corporal Gallagher was awarded the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest military award, for his extraordinary heroism during a surprise attack he survived, in which he dove on a live grenade and saved his comrades from injury and death. Tragically, after receiving the Navy Cross directly from General William Westmoreland, Corporal Gallagher was killed in a firefight just days before the end of his tour of duty.
Quoting a song from the hit musical “Hamilton,” Schumer asked the gathered crowd, “When you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?
“We will remember Patrick Gallagher’s name. We will remember his story. This will happen."
Presenting a model of the ship to be named in his honor to Gallagher’s family, Schumer thanked Martin Durkan and Marius Donnelly who started the now 10,000-signature strong petition, as well as the US Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer who had heard their calls and listened to their story.
Schumer concluded by turning to the lyrics of Bob Dylan, telling the Gallagher family, with whom he has worked since 2017 to make this dream a reality: “Pinch yourself and squeal because the ship has come in and it will be named after Patrick Gallagher.”
The Consul General of Ireland Ciarán Madden also spoke, highlighting the role Irish-born servicemen and women had played in the US throughout the centuries. In fact, Madden noted, over a third of the 769 Medals of Honor awarded to those born outside of the US were given to a person born in Ireland.
“The Irish have not been found wanting,” Madden said of the commitment of Irish immigrants to serve in the US, adding how the valor and leadership shown by Gallagher in Vietnam “pointed to greatness in later life” if it had not so tragically been cut short.
George Delaney, this year’s Grand Marshall in the Bayonne Saint Patrick’s Day Parade who also hails from the Mayo town of Ballyhaunis where Gallagher was from, also spoke to the Irish tradition of joining with the US Navy and military, stating that today was an announcement with which we “remember all Irish people who have served.”
The ship to be named after Gallagher has not yet been built but is expected within the next few years.