THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: a new Irish-American hero

editorial image

For centuries men with Irish roots have made a significant contribution to the building of the United States of America.

Some like Davy Crockett and Philip Sheridan, distinguished themselves in military conflict; others, such as Woodrow Wilson, in the political realm. Some, such as Andrew Jackson and Ulysees S. Grant won fame in both spheres. To that notable list a new name must now be added, that of Patrick Gallagher.

The American Secretary for the Navy has decided that the next U.S. navy destroyer to be launched will be named USS Gallagher, in honour of a young man from Ballyhaunis, County Mayo. Patrick was the second child in a large family, and in quest of greater opportunities than Mayo offered, he emigrated to the United States along with his sister in 1962. While pursuing legal studies, he became active in politics, canvassing for Senator Robert Kennedy. When the Vietnam War came along, he enlisted. He approached the conflict as something of an adventure, assuring his family back in Mayo that he would be fine, and inquiring nonchalantly from his father how the ploughing was going!

As it turned out, Patrick did not survive the Vietnam conflict,being killed on the final day of his tour of duty; but before that he had already shown conspicuous heroism. Some months before his death, he had thrown himself upon a live grenade, risking his own life in order to spare others. As it happened, the grenade did not explode, but when he tossed it into a nearby river, it did blow up. For that selfless act , Patrick was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest U.S. military honour

War, that mad game we men so love to play - to use Dean Swift’s phrase - provides countless examples of people who willingly sacrificed themselves for others. During the Second World War, those who were prisoners of the Japaneses endured unimaginable agonies. On one occasion a work detail returned at the end of the day, and handed in their implements...spades, shovels, picks. The Japanese guard announced that one implement was missing, and threatened to shoot all the group unless the guilty man stepped forward. After a long pause, and renewed threats. one man stepped forward, and was immediately clubbed to death. The next day it was discovered that no implement had been missing after all. Their brave colleague,aware of his innocence, had stepped forward to save the lives of all his colleagues. Well did Jesus say, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’(John 15;13)

As we approach another Good Friday we remembered that Christ gave his life a ransom for all(Mark 10;45), and that includes you and me, gentle reader.