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Honoring our veterans

By Leigh Ann Rutledge
Accent Editor

John Gallagher
John Gallagher, Veterans of Foreign Wars district 6 commander, stands beside a stone at his home post, Amsterdam Post 323, in honor of his service to the country and its vetarans and his home post.

John Gallagher began serving his country at age 17. 

Today, at the age of 63, he continues to serve and carries a very distinct honor. He is the first man from his Veterans of Foreign Wars post to hold a District Commander title.

Gallagher was elected to the District 6 Commander position in June 2010.  Being elected to this position put him in a rare category.  He was the first man from Amsterdam Post #232 and the first man from Jefferson County to be elected to this position.

Gallagher oversees 35 posts in the 6th District, which is comprised of Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Stark and Wayne counties.  Over a two-year period, Gallagher went from serving as junior vice to senior vice to commander, a fabulous recognition that almost did not happen.

Born in Canton, Gallagher briefly attended school in Malvern before moving to Carrollton for junior and senior high school.  His parents eventually divorced and his mother moved to Amsterdam.  In 1964, at age 17, he talked his mother into signing papers to allow him to join the army before he finished high school.  He turned 18 years old in July 1965 and found himself in Vietnam that September. 

Gallagher spent 14-and-one-half months stationed in Anakee in Vietnam working in transportation as a truck mechanic.  His unit hauled supplies, including food and ammo, for the 1st Calvary Unit.  The unit set up base camp for the Cavalry and being a mechanic, Gallagher saw combat. 

“We went where the Cavalry went because it was our job to keep the vehicles running,” explained Gallagher.  After his service in Vietnam, he finished his enlistment time in Georgia.  He spent over 12 years living in Alliance and in 1979 moved to Amsterdam where he began work with the United Mine Workers in 1982 but did not join the Amsterdam VFW. 

Military service is a big part of Gallagher’s life.  His father and stepfather both served in World War II and his stepfather was responsible for helping land a plane and saving several servicemen’s lives.  John had three brothers who also served in Vietnam.  “Our poor mother,” Gallagher stated, “She had four sons serving in Vietnam over five and one-half years and none of us were there at the same time and fortunately none of us were injured,”

His brother, Jim, not only served two tours of duty in Vietnam, but also a tour in Desert Storm.

The father of three children and stepfather to two, a son and stepson serve in the Armed Forces.

His son, Capt. John Gallagher Jr., was a Navy Corpsman in Desert Storm.  He left the service but kept thinking he was supposed to be in the service.  He reenlisted in the Air Force and attended Officer’s Candidate school.  He became a first lieutenant, recently earned his captain’s bars and plans to make a career in the service.  His stepson served in the Navy and a nephew in the Army, both during Desert Storm.

All this military service, and still Gallagher had no desire to join the VFW.  “I didn’t want to sit around with a bunch of World War II vets, drinking beer and telling war stories,” he explained.  “Then I became friends with a World War II vet who asked me to come up to the VFW.  For him, I stopped by for a visit.”

He liked it and became a very active member.  His first job was serving as a trustee, then canteen manager.  Ten years ago, when the current quartermaster resigned, Gallagher was asked to take over the position for four months until elections.   Today, he is still the quartermaster, the guy who takes care of the finances, and in his own words, “keeps the lights on and the beer cold.”

As District 6 Commander, he works with the posts to keep things running smoothly, working out any problems before they get too big. 

Basically just sitting down and talking with each other and meeting a lot of extremely nice people.  Gallagher said, “This has been a great learning process, meeting and talking to everyone.”  While he has traveled all over Ohio in his various positions, he boasts over his home Post in Amsterdam. 

“The VFW is its own best kept secret,” stated Gallagher.  “What they do doesn’t all get out and get noticed.”  He noted is he is in awe of the people who bend over backwards to help someone in need.  “There are so many great people in the post and when someone needs help, they are there,” he continued.  After a moment, he said, “What people in a small community can and will do,” he hesitated, “It just chokes me up.”

He is also a member of the Color Guard, who along with other local VFWs, attend numerous funeral ceremonies to honor their comrades. Gallagher is excited about the new memorial at the park in Amsterdam.  Committee members are gathering veteran’s names to be included on the memorial.

Even though Gallagher retired Aug. 1, 2010, his service to the VFW is comparable to a full-time job.  He is usually on site six hours a day, seven days a week.  “It gets frustrating sometimes, but I enjoy it,” he stated.   “I never in a million years thought I would be in this position.  It’s a lot of work but I am truly honored to do it.”

The Amsterdam VFW is holding a Veteran’s Day Dinner Nov. 11 at 6 p.m.

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