Jan 3 – It could easily be said that if there was something that needed to be done in relation to veteran affairs – especially Vietnam era, Dan Gallagher was the man who was going to make it happen.
And it is ironic I suppose that the last time we spoke was a couple of years ago at the traveling Vietnam Memorial which he helped bring to the Clover Bowl near Washington Grizzly Stadium.
While it was short lived it is a memory I will hold close since it was the last time I was to see him. He died last week.
Like many of us who were teenagers when we first donned a military uniform Dan eventually never strayed from making his presence felt when it was needed.
But make no mistake, again like many, it did take a while.
I first met him – I’m sure like many veterans – in the mid 80’s at the Doughboy Statute in front of the Missoula County Courthouse where he was talking to a sparse crowd for Veterans Day ceremonies on all I can describe as a squawk box.
And when several guest speakers gathered on the gazebo on a wind-blown snowy November morning a small group shared a few almost inaudible words as they stretched the mike cord from one person to another.
Under my breath I said to myself I wonder why there is no sound system but well I guess it is the thought that counts. Again PA or not, lousy weather or not, a sparse crowd or not, somehow Dan was going to make it happen.
Over the years attendance at the yearly affair improved – the weather generally didn’t – but as I remember the Missoula Veteran Council and assistance from a couple of others considerably helped to improve the quality of the affair.
See anything in the Missoula community that has to do with veterans and you can bet Dan had at least part of himself in it and for that I for one never thanked him enough.
At Rose Memorial Park you will find the impressive Vietnam and Korean War Memorial and now unfortunately others.
While eventually others became equally involved Gallagher’s presence always was felt in those efforts and you can bet proudly wearing his beret, he was around.
But his involvement didn’t come easily or quickly and like so many from the war in Southeast Asia upon his return initially he was a recluse.
He had his demons yet even though saddled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the effects of Agent Orange Dan persevered and graduated from the University of Montana with several degrees, obtained his law degree and became one of the state’s most prominent veteran’s advocates.
But his greatest contribution was his outreach which brought him both to the state’s classrooms and a long-running weekly commentary on Montana Public Radio.
An Army Combat engineer and one of 13 children, the 69-year-old will be buried in his home town of Charlo this week after succumbing to heart trouble.
In a May 2015 Missoulian interview Dan said he would take Vietnam to his grave. There is little doubt in my mind for most that is true but there are many miles to walk before we sleep.
Rest in Peace my friend.mp3