I don’t often listen to RTE Radio 1 documentaries,because they are usually about subjects I have no interest in. But today in the car stuck in traffic I listened to a documentary and it broke my heart.
Among the 58,000 names inscribed on the Vietnam war memorial wall in Washington DC is that of corporal Patrick ‘Bob’ Gallagher.
Patrick grew up near Ballyhaunis in rural county Mayo before emigrating to the United States in the early 1960s. Patrick joined the US Marine Corps and was stationed in Vietnam during some of the most intense fighting of the war. Patrick was just 23 years old and a Marine Corporal when he was killed on duty in southeast Asia. Just before he died, Patrick was awarded a Navy Cross, the second highest honor in the US military. Like many war dead, Patrick is remembered by his family in Ireland and his friends and comrades who served with him in combat.
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.
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.'”
On the 30th of March his platoon was ambushed near Hill 65 by the Vietcong
Seven of the men were killed,including Gallagher,were killed that day and 2 others died the following day from their injuries.
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”.