After years of hoping to honor their fallen brother, the family of an Irish-born immigrant and former Lynbrook resident who was killed while serving the U.S. in Vietnam got their wish. It was announced at a news conference in New York City on Monday that a Navy ship would be named in his honor.
Corporal Patrick “Bob” Gallagher was born the second oldest of nine children to Peter and Mary Gallagher in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, Ireland on Feb. 1, 1944. When he turned 18, he emigrated to the U.S. and lived with his sisters, Margaret and Bridie, at his aunt May Burns’s house in Lynbrook. After five years in America, he enlisted in the Navy and served in Vietnam, where he was killed.
In recent years, Gallagher’s family has urged the military to name a ship in his honor. After it finally happened, his remaining siblings, Peter, Teresa, Rosemarie and Pauline, released a statement thanking all who supported their mission and lauding their late brother.
“To our heroic brother Patrick, who has received this honor, we are very, very proud of you,” the statement reads. “We know that you, our parents and other brothers and sisters who have passed away are watching on today.”
Gallagher was honored with the Navy Cross — the second-highest military honor awarded to a member of the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps — when he risked his life to save his comrades in July 1966. While his fellow Marines were sleeping in a bunker, four enemy fighters infiltrated their camp and threw three grenades into their dwelling. Gallagher kicked the first two grenades out, and they detonated at a safe distance. He jumped on the other one and then threw it in a river, where it exploded.
Though he survived the grenade attack, Gallagher was shot and killed at age 23 while on patrol in the town of Da Nang on March 30, 1967. Martin Durkin, a pilot who grew up in Ballyhaunis, heard Gallagher’s story and told it to Marcus Donnelly, a former Dublin native who owns a bar in Texas. Inspired by Gallagher’s heroism, they started a petition to have a ship named after him, Pauline told the Herald in May 2017. It garnered more than 10,000 signatures,
The efforts caught the attention of Sen. Charles Schumer, who wrote a letter to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer in September 2017. Schumer shared Gallagher’s story and acknowledged the precedent of honoring veterans who died in combat. After sending the letter, Schumer arranged a meeting between Spencer and Gallagher’s family on Long Island.
Flanked by the family, Schumer announced at the news conference that the Navy’s next destroyer, the Arleigh Burk-class DDG-127, would set sail as the USS Gallagher.
“Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Corporal Patrick Gallagher’s ship has come in,” Schumer said, according to a release. “It is a great day for America and Ireland and all Irish Americans, who have contributed so mightily to the greatness of this nation.”
In their statement, Gallagher’s family thanked Spencer, Schumer and those who created and signed the petition for their efforts. “We remember all Irish men who have served,” the statement reads. “ … Patrick lives forever young in our hearts and minds.”