SCHUMER ANNOUNCES: AFTER ALL-OUT PUSH, INCLUDING SECURING VISIT OF NAVY SECRETARY SPENCER TO LI, USMC HERO, CORP. PATRICK GALLAGHER – AN IRISH IMMIGRANT HAILING FROM LONG ISLAND AND NAVY CROSS WINNER—WHO MADE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE IN VIETNAM WAR WILL BE POSTHUMOUSLY HONORED WITH NAVY DESTROYER SHIP NAMED IN HIS HONOR
During LI Visit, Schumer Connected Gallagher Family and Navy Sec. Spencer to Explain Why USMC Corporal Patrick Gallagher, Navy Cross Winner For Extraordinary Heroism Before Being Tragically Killed In Action Days Before His Tour Ended, Deserved Navy Ship Named in His Honor; Schumer and Family Made The Case & Cited Precedent For Ship Naming for Marine Corps Heroes
Now, Just in Time For St. Patrick’s Day, Schumer Says: “Corporal Patrick Gallagher’s Ship Has Come In. It Is a Great Day for America And Ireland and All Irish Americans.” Applauds Navy Secretary Spencer’s Extraordinary Decision To Have USS Gallagher Set Sail
Schumer: Navy’s USS Gallagher Will Be A Special Memorial For Countless Immigrants Who Love & Serve In The Military For This Great Nation, And For the Immense Contributions Of The Irish People to America
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, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced today that the U.S. Navy will name one of its next destroyer, the Arleigh Burk-class DDG-127, in honor of USMC Corporal Patrick “Bob” Gallagher.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
A copy of Schumer’s 2017 letter to the Navy is below:
Office of the Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon, Room 4D652
Washington, DC 20350
Dear Secretary Richard Spencer,
I write to urge the United States Navy to name the next available destroyer (DDG class ship) after Lance Corporal Patrick Gallagher of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). As a result of Corporal Gallagher’s extraordinarily valiant and patriotic service in the Vietnam War, he was awarded a Navy Cross in 1967, our nation’s second highest military award.
After emigrating to America in 1962 from his home in Ballyhaunis, a town in, County Mayo, Ireland, Patrick Gallagher moved to Long Island, New York, where he lived, worked, and studied with the American Dream in his heart. He enlisted into military service in 1966 and readily answered the call of his new nation. He was assigned to “H” Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. His unit was assigned to Vietnam and soon saw action in Operation Hastings.
On July 18, 1966, while under enemy fire, Corporal Patrick Gallagher showed his extraordinary heroism and inspiring valor in the face of mortal threat. During the night, enemy fighters infiltrated the area occupied by his unit and threw grenades into their position. Corporal Gallagher kicked a grenade out of the area before it exploded, and then, according to his official citation, “another grenade followed and landed in a 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 its explosion and save the lives of his comrades.” As further grenades exploded in the position, Corporal Gallagher threw the grenade he was still lying on away from the position, where it exploded. Amazingly, no injuries were sustained in the attack.
Corporal Gallagher saved his comrades from catastrophic injury and possible loss of life. His courageous actions were in the highest traditions of the United States Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service and he was justly awarded the prestigious Navy Cross for his deeds. Contemporaneous news articles from March 1, 1967 show Corporal Gallagher receiving his award from General William Westmoreland, Commander of US forces in Vietnam.
Tragically, Corporal Gallagher was killed in action in DaLoc near Da Nang -- along with several of his comrades – on March 30, 1967, just several days before his tour of duty was to have ended. Not yet a citizen, Corporal Patrick Gallagher had made the ultimate sacrifice for his adopted nation.
His story and legacy remain alive and deeply impactful on all who hear it. Fifty years after being killed in action his sacrifice is still being honored in both America and Ireland. A well-supported petition campaign is under way, and, on March 30th of this year an event in remembrance of his life was conducted in his home town, which drew many hundreds of participants, significant media coverage on both sides of the Atlantic and a full honor guard of United States Marines from the American embassy.
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. 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.” Moreover, it is consistent with precedent; 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. It will also remind all those many new Americans that are willing to serve this nation that America honors those who serve her. As the effort to name a ship in his honor has articulated, “This recognizes the many contributions of foreign nationals in U.S. Navy, U.S Marines & Armed Forces throughout our history, voluntarily serving with loyalty, honor & commitment to their adopted country. A US Navy ship afloat with this heritage would be a welcome reminder to those at home that their loved one's service and perhaps ultimate sacrifice, were remembered by us, the citizens, members of our Armed Forces and the government of the United States of America.”
I have long been a strong supporter of the United States Armed Forces, the Navy and the Marine Corps. I have also long been committed to honoring those new Americans who awe me with their willingness to serve their new nation. In 2003, after many years of working with committed advocates like the late John Leahy (and then General of the United States Marine Corps John Kelly) and the late Senator Edward Kennedy, I was extremely proud that the Congress passed the Posthumous Citizenship Bill to provide citizenship to those in our Armed Forces killed in action before they could achieve full citizenship. That day, 23 families of young Irishmen who served in the Korean War were granted citizenship. It was a moving day. Since then the bill has provided a way to honor other families – from many different nations – who have lost their loved ones in the recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Remembering sacrifice and honoring our heroes matters. I can think of no better way for the United States Navy and the Marine Corps to eternalize and publicize the best of what America and our armed force stand for than to name a destroyer for Corporal Patrick Gallagher. Please contact me on this matters and others if I can be of any assistance.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
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