The US navy is to name a destroyer after Ballyhaunis native Patrick Gallagher. The USS Gallagher, as it will be called, will be built in Maine.
Gallagher who emigrated to the US in 1962, joined the Marine Corps in 1966 and was a corporal in the US marines when he was killed in action at just 23 years of age, following an ambush near Danang in Vietnam in March, 1967.
The year previously, Corporal Gallagher was awarded the Navy Cross, the US navy's highest honour, for saving the lives of three comrades in Vietnam, for throwing his body on a grenade, shielding his fellow marines, before throwing it in a nearby river where it exploded.
Last March members of the Defence Forces and the US army attended the unveiling of a plaque in Ballyhaunis to honour Gallagher on the 50th anniversary of his death.
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, says that the naming of the destroyer is a recognition of the role played by Irish men and women in the creation of the United States: "This is recognition of the individual sacrifice of Patrick Gallagher and also of the role played by Irish men and women in the creation of the United States.
"This week I will represent the Irish Government at the celebration of St Patrick’s Day in Boston, a city which is famously proud of its Irish roots. It never fails to impress me how Irish Americans throughout the United States cherish and value their Irish heritage. During my visit I will meet many proud Irish American groups, including no doubt, people with strong Mayo links.
“Indeed, many of them may have arrived in America around the same time as Patrick Gallagher, when emigration to the US from communities in Mayo was so prevalent. I look forward to meeting these men and women, and their sons, daughters, and grandchildren in the week in which they celebrate their Irish roots.”
Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Lisa Chambers said: "This is a huge honour for Corporal Gallagher’s family and recognises the sacrifice that the young Mayo man made. Corporal Gallagher demonstrated an immense lust for life after emigrating to the US in the early 1960s. He appeared to have a huge affinity for his new home, becoming involved in politics and later joining the US marines.
“I want to pay tribute to everyone involved in the campaign to have a US navy ship named in his honour. All of their dedication and hard work has paid off following the news from the Pentagon that the newest vessel in the American fleet will be named after Corporal Gallagher.
"This is an immensely proud honour for his family and friends, and is testament not only to the man himself, but also the work undertaken by those involved in the campaign.”