Nevada Army Guard Sgt. 1st Class David Gallagher knew the possible consequences of serving his nation, even the biggest one: death.
The worst happened June 4, when an M1 Abrams tank rolled over during a monthlong training exercise at Fort Irwin, California. Accounts of the accident indicate Gallagher, who was standing with another guardsman in the hatch of the tank’s turret, reacted instantly, extending himself to push his exposed comrade back into the hatch moments before the tank rolled onto the turret.
“He epitomizes everything good about being an American, everything good about being an American soldier and a father,” Brig. Gen. Zachary Doser said Friday at a memorial ceremony for Gallagher attended by his family and more than 400 soldiers at the Clark County Armory.
“He ultimately gave his own life so that somebody else may live. That is commitment.”
Gallagher, an armor crewman assigned to the guard’s 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry Regiment in Las Vegas, was posthumously elevated to the rank of sergeant, 1st class. He also was awarded the Nevada Medal of Valor, reserved for soldiers and airmen in the Nevada National Guard who distinguish themselves at the risk of their lives, as well as the U.S. Army’s Meritorious Service Medal and two Army Reserve Component Achievement medals for “exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity.”
He will also be nominated for the Soldier’s Medal, an award that goes to any person in the armed forces of the United States or its allies who displayed heroism not involving conflict with an enemy.
Gallagher’s previous decorations include the Combat Action Badge, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Members of the guard recalled Friday that while Gallagher was 51, he was quicker and had more stamina than many of his younger comrades.
“We’ve laughed together, cried together, shared stories together,” said Capt. Michael Colyer, commander of the squadron’s Delta Company. “We are better for having known him. He will be sorely missed but not forgotten.”
Gallagher was a father of six and grandfather of three. He joined the Army in 1988 and the National Guard in 2009.
His daughter, Shaylea Gallagher, said her dad missed her first prom because he was deployed to Afghanistan.
“He stuck around for the Delta Company because he knew they needed it,” 1st Sgt. Karim Khaldy said to the soldier’s family in the front row. “We needed a strong leader and a strong mentor. Thank you for letting us have him.”
Gallagher served in the National Guard alongside his son, Joshua Boothe.
Chaplain Troy Dandrea remembered Gallagher as a man who would make “crass, not-so-chaplain-friendly jokes.”
“He was that consistent, unpredictability,” he said. “He was a mentor to many. We’d call him the village elder.”
He described Gallagher as a walking pharmacy out in the field, always carrying around baby wipes, Tums, Advil and other necessities. In 20 years, he’d never failed a physical fitness test.
Gallagher’s wife, Margie, was presented with a flag used to cover his body on the night of his death. It will be displayed permanently at the Clark County Armory.
The ceremony ended with words that Gallagher had used to memorialize a fallen comrade.
“‘Meet people. You’ll find friends. Never treat a person like a lesser being. Family first. Don’t let history pass you by. Forgive to let go of pain,’” Dandrea read.
“His response to death was life.”