Dyersville resident inducted to U.S. Army ROTC Hall of Fame
John Gallagher among hundreds honored at Fort Knox ceremony
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A Dyersville resident recently had a homecoming of sorts.
Fort Knox, the U.S. Army post in Kentucky, is where John Gallagher, 55, completed basic training before the start of a seven-year Army career.
On June 10, Gallagher returned to the fort to be inducted into the inaugural class of the Army ROTC Hall of Fame.
Gallagher is one of 326 former cadets selected for the honor, during the centennial year of the United States Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corp (ROTC). Last month’s ceremony was conducted on the very parade field on on which Gallagher marched in 1981 during basic training.
Beth Gallagher, his wife, and three of their children attended the event, and described the moment as a “very proud one” for the family.
Others inducted into the Army ROTC Hall of Fame included former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. John J. Pershing. For Gallagher, being among such a “prestigious group” was surreal.
“I have no idea how I got there, but it was great,” he said.
Gallagher was nominated by Lt. Col. Glen Keith, head of the University of Northern Iowa’s Department of Military Science. Deb Ackerson, a secretary in the department, said Gallagher’s name was the first that came to mind when they were asked for hall of fame nominations.
Patrick Williams, a 1986 UNI graduate who is in active duty in the Army, also was nominated and chosen for the Army ROTC Hall of Fame. To have both alumni selected was “incredible,” Ackerson said.
“It’s a good testament to the quality of people we have in Cedar Valley,” Keith said.
Gallagher said the way Army ROTC members are treated now is a far cry from what he experienced in the early 1980s at UNI.
When UNI brought ROTC back for the first time since World War II, Gallagher said he was the first to sign up, later graduating with six other cadets.
At that time, with memories of the Vietnam War still fresh, there were many with negative opinions about the military on the UNI campus. Due to opposition from members of the faculty and the student government, Gallagher and his fellow cadets were not allowed to wear their uniforms on campus, saying they “got the stares,” and “got the ‘baby killer’ comments.”
“Now you see a different thing,” he said. “Folks are weary or tired of war, but people still respect our military.”
Following his graduation in 1983, Gallagher was given a Regular Army Commission and deployed to Germany before returning to the United States. His military career ended in 1990 after a back injury.
Gallagher said he credits his wife, Beth, for her support during his military career, as she moved 12 times with him over his seven years of active duty.
“A lot of credit goes to her because she maintained the home front while I was gone,” he said.
Gallagher said he comes from a long line of military service members; his father and both of his grandfathers served. Although his time in the Army is over, Gallagher said his son, who is 12, has expressed interest in eventually joining ROTC.