One of the most pre-eminent politicians in the United States has spoken about his pride at seeing a US naval destroyer named after a Mayo man.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer addressed the Ireland Funds gala dinner in Washington on March 15 last where he spoke about the campaign to honour Ballyhaunis native Patrick Gallagher, who was killed while serving with the US Marines in the Vietnam War in 1967. Senator Schumer said he had previously worked with his great friend, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, to gain posthumous American citizenship for the 27 Irish citizens who died while fighting for America in the Korean War. Describing them as ‘heroes’, the senator from New York then referenced the campaign to honour Patrick Gallagher.
“Heroes like Patrick Gallagher, an Irish immigrant who, like so many before him, came to America half a century ago — from Ballyhaunis in County Mayo.
“Patrick was not yet a citizen, but he still chose to serve in the Vietnam War. He became a marine, and one night in the jungle he saved the lives of his fellow marines by jumping onto a live grenade and, just in time, tossing it into a river. For that, he was awarded the Medal of Valor.
“But like so many others, Patrick never came home. On one of his last days of service — one of his last — Corporal Patrick Gallagher was killed in action.
“Nearly 50 years later, I was proud to work with his family, with then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer to have the US Navy name one of its new state-of-the-art destroyers in honor of Corporal Patrick Gallagher.
“I am so proud to report that this awesome ship – being built at Bath Iron Works in Maine – will be christened in six months.
“For the first time ever, a US Navy ship will bear the name of an Irish citizen. An immigrant who was not yet an American and nevertheless gave his life for this country.
“Now, it is my fervent hope that the combination of the launching of the USS Patrick Gallagher and the upcoming visit to Ballina by the Mayo Man-in-Chief, President Joe Biden, will be just the thing to break the curse that hangs over the Mayo football team. And that this year — finally — Mayo will lift the Sam Maguire in Croke Park!”