By SUZAN CLARKE THE JOURNAL NEWS(Original Publication: March 26, 2007)
How to donate
- To donate to Brian Gallagher's fundraising effort to benefit The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, visit www.rocktowest.org.- For more information on The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, visit www.saluteheroes.org.
CORTLANDT -When Brian Gallagher got stuck in traffic recently on his way home from his job in Orangeburg, he did, he said, what "any good New Yorker" would do.
He began to complain. Then, as he sat there, he heard a news report on the radio about an explosion overseas that had injured two U.S. Marines.
"And I thought to myself, you know, that guy has something to complain about," the 36-year-old Thiells resident said, "and I felt selfish. I felt selfish that here I am, I'm home, I'm allowed to see my wife and 2-year-old son, and I'm in traffic complaining about it."
Gallagher stopped complaining, and resolved to do something about the situation.
Those efforts culminated yesterday when Gallagher set out on a 27-mile march from his Thiells home to Ossining, headed for the headquarters of The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes.
In the months leading up to the event, named Rock to West because it began in Rockland and ended in Westchester, Gallagher raised $18,000 of the $25,000 goal he set for himself, through individual pledges and corporate sponsorships.
The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes provides assistance to veterans across the nation who have been disabled or severely wounded in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Gallagher, who works for a defense contractor in Orangeburg, said every penny of the funds he raises in his effort will go to the organization.
The effort is particularly important to Gallagher, a former Marine corporal who served during Operation Enduring Freedom in Somalia.
"As a combat veteran myself, I knew the importance of organizations such as this and how much the community and people in Rockland and Westchester need to know about this..." he said during a stop at Camp Smith in Cortlandt.
Gallagher dedicated yesterday's walk to Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, whose widely reported act of courage saved the lives of two of his fellow Marines but caused him to lose his own.
Dunham was leading a patrol in Iraq in 2004 when his unit was attacked. An enemy grenade was tossed into their position, and in an effort to save his men, Dunham threw himself on it, absorbing the explosion with his body. He died of his injuries a few days later.
"I read that story, and I was just, I was brought to tears ..." Gallagher said. "In the Marine Corps you're taught to take care of your own and that's what Cpl. Dunham did, and Cpl. Dunham showed that one man can make a difference in other people's lives."
Dunham of Scio, N.Y., was 22. He belonged to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
Gallagher plans to start what he called an annual Dunham Run around Rockland Lake to benefit the Cpl. Jason Dunham Scholarship Foundation.
In khaki pants and a navy blue jacket, and with a water pack on his back, Gallagher walked briskly along the Bear Mountain Bridge Road in Cortlandt in the mid-morning yesterday.
The walk - for which he had prepared himself with gym workouts and 15 miles of running per week for two months - went well.
"The cold weather kind of held me back a little, my legs feel a little tight, but for the most part, I'm in good shape," he said.
Gallagher carried the red flag of Dunham's unit. He was trailed by a state police cruiser and a Hummer.
"This was graciously loaned to me by Mahwah Hummer," Gallagher said, pointing to the large vehicle that was decorated in camouflage print wrap. "I went in there, and I said, 'I'm doing this road march, and I'd like to borrow a ... Hummer' " to promote the event.
The dealership's owner agreed. The vehicle was decorated by AIT Digital in Orangeburg, Gallagher said.
"It's a $6,000 wrap, and they donated it for free for the cause," Gallagher said.
At the 24th mile, Gallagher was to be joined by other Marines who would run the final three miles with him. Once at the coalition headquarters, Gallagher planned to present a $10,000 check - from the funds he has raised so far - to Chris Ryan, father of Sgt. Eddie Ryan.
Ryan, a Marine from Ellenville, N.Y., was shot twice in the head during his service in Iraq. His family needs money for his rehabilitation.
Gallagher said he's proud to have raised as much money as he has, and is happy to have made a difference in his own way. That is why the slogan for the walk was "One Man, One Cause," he said.
"I didn't sit there and say, 'You know what? It would be nice to do that, but it's just me, what can one man do?' Well, this is what one man can do."