New York Senator Charles  Schumer announced that the a US destroyer will be named after Navy Cross medal honoree USMC Corporal Patrick “Bob” Gallagher.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced today that the U.S. Navy will name one of its next destroyers, the Arleigh Burk-class DDG-127, in honor of USMC Corporal Patrick “Bob” Gallagher.

After an all-out effort, that included arranging a critical meeting on Long Island between the family of Marine Corps hero Corporal Patrick Gallagher and Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, with great honor, Schumer paid special tribute to Secretary Spencer for the honoring of Corporal Gallagher.

“Without the speedy, professional and decisive response of Secretary Richard Spencer, we would not be here today to make this wonderful announcement. Secretary Spencer knows that Patrick Gallagher’s is a compelling story that fits deeply with the very best traditions of the United States Marine Corps and the way the United States Marine Corps honors its heroes.”

USMC Corporal Patrick “Bob” Gallagher.

USMC Corporal Patrick “Bob” Gallagher.

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 – before he was a citizen.

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.

In September, joining a robust chorus of supporters on both sides of the Atlantic, Schumer wrote to Secretary Spencer and asked that the Navy pay tribute to Corporal Gallagher’s sacrifice and willingness to serve his adopted nation by naming a ship in his honor. Soon after, Schumer personally invited Secretary Spencer to Long Island to meet the Gallaghers and again made the case for the ship naming in his honor. Schumer, today, applauded the Navy’s extraordinary decision to do just that.

“Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Corporal Patrick Gallagher’s ship has come in. It is a great day for America and Ireland and all Irish Americans, who have contributed so mightily to the greatness of this nation,” said Schumer.

“There are few things more special than to know the story of  Long Island’s Patrick Gallagher, an Irish immigrant who simply loved America—died for America—and will now be rightfully honored by America by having a US Navy destroyer adorned with his name,” said Schumer.  “And I can think of no better way to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day than to say ‘slainte’ to the new USS Gallagher.

When meeting with Secretary Spencer, the Gallagher family and I explained why Corporal Gallagher’s breathtaking bravery and selflessness deserved to be memorialized and that naming a ship in his honor would be the perfect tribute to recognizing this Irish-American hero from our very own Long Island. The Secretary of the Navy’s extraordinary and swift decision is not only wonderful news for the Gallagher family, it also recognizes the deep love so many immigrants from every corner of the world have for America.

The courage and bravery of our fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, including those immigrants who have made the ultimate sacrifice even before receiving citizenship, is the American dream manifest. This is a proud moment for America, Long Island and the countless men and women currently serving this great nation.”  

Soldiers in combat during the Vietnam War.

Soldiers in combat during the Vietnam War.

Patrick Gallagher was an immigrant from the Irish town of Ballyhaunis in County Mayo and moved to Long Island in 1962. Four years later, Corporal Gallagher chose to serve in the Marines and was stationed in 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.

One night, during the first year of his tour in Vietnam, Corporal Gallagher was involved in a surprise attack by enemy fighters. While his fellow marines slept, adversaries invaded the area and lobbed grenades into the middle of their camp. Heedless of the risk posed to himself, Gallagher kicked a grenade away from the area in which his fellow marines were sleeping. When another grenade followed, Corporal Gallagher threw himself on the deadly grenade in order to absorb the explosion and save the lives of his comrades. Using his quick wits, Corporal Gallagher was able to throw the grenade he was lying on into a nearby river, and escape the situation without injury. Corporal Gallagher was awarded the Navy Cross – directly by General William Westmoreland –  for his bravery during the surprise attack incident.

In 1967, Corporal Gallagher was tragically killed in action on one of his last scheduled days in Vietnam. Though he was not yet a citizen, Schumer argued that the fact that Corporal Patrick Gallagher made the ultimate sacrifice for his adopted nation made this honor even more compelling. Gallagher is one of over 30 Irish citizens killed in the Vietnam War. Senator Bobby Kennedy, of whom Gallagher volunteered for before deploying to Vietnam, wrote a personal letter to Gallagher’s family upon his death, praising Gallagher for his fearlessness.

Soldiers marching through fields during the Vietnam War.

Soldiers marching through fields during the Vietnam War.

“And now, in the tradition of other Long Island heroes, like Lt. Michael Murphy, the USS Gallagher will soon set sail and make our nation proud,” said Schumer.  

In his September letter and phone calls and meetings with Secretary Spencer, Schumer demonstrated there is precedence for honoring heroic immigrant service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Schumer explained that recently a Navy destroyer was named after fallen USMC hero Rafael Peralta, also a recipient of the Navy Cross, for heroic actions that very closely parallel those of Corporal Patrick Gallagher’s. Also, Schumer has long supported honoring new Americans for their service. For instance, Schumer introduced the Posthumous Citizenship Act, granting citizenship to brave soldiers and sailors like Corporal Patrick Gallagher who have died fighting for their adopted homeland.

Schumer said, “The naming of a United Sates Navy destroyer is a fitting way to pay tribute to Corporal Gallagher’s sacrifice, to his willingness to serve his adopted nation, and will serve as a permanent reminder to all of his bravery, selflessness and patriotism.”

Schumer said that the naming of a destroyer for Corporal Gallagher is consistent with the Navy’s policy of naming destroyers for “distinguished heroes who are deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.” Schumer was not alone in his plea for a Navy ship to be named after Corporal Gallagher. A petition, started in 2013, surpassed its goal of 10,000 signatures.