SOMERVILLE, NJ – Brendan Gallagher begins living his dream in earnest today, just as thousands of men and women before him have done, trading in their civilian clothes for drab green Army fatigues.
Day One of his Army career begins early Monday in the shadows of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, more than a year after his parents – Mayor Brian Gallagher and wife Lisa – gave permission for their son to pre-enlist at the age of 17.
The young enlistee will head south for basic training in Georgia at Fort Benning – one month after graduating from Somerville High School.
“We’re very proud and a little bit nervous but understanding that this is what he wants to do,” the mayor said. “It’s his goal and we support him 110 percent; he’s a very patriotic young man. He has great convictions in what is right and wrong and he’s moving forward with those convictions.
“His patriotism is unbounded,” Gallagher said. “He drives around in his big red pick-up truck with huge American and Army flags flying off the back - you can t miss him. He’s not afraid to display his patriotism or to voice it.”
The 18-year-old’s last day as a civilian was spent hanging out with family and friends at home, chowing down on Buffalo Wings from Mannion’s Pub, parking his truck and having an earnest heart-to-heart talk with his dad.
Brendan is one of five children in the Gallagher clan, and when it comes time for the mayor to drop his “pearls of wisdom” they’ll roll their eyes good naturedly before he dispenses advice, according to the mayor.
“I sat with him this morning had a good long talk,” the mayor said. “I told him one of the hardest things in life is to work with people. I told him you’re going to meet all kinds of people from different walks of life; some of those people you’ll make wonderful friends with and there will be those you won’t like and there will be those who don’t like you.
“But, you have a job to do, a mission to fulfill,” he continued. “Everybody brings tools to the table, you have to learn how to work together, even if you disagree with someone else.”
The mayor said his son never gave any thought to college.
“Ever since he was probably 7-8 years old he was naturally drawn to it, he had military posters hanging on the wall in his room,” Gallagher said. “He’s always been drawn to the outdoors, physical activities; he’s in great shape, he just has a natural affinity for it – and we don’t come from a military family.”
Brendan Gallagher signed up for Advanced Infantry Training and will become a cavalry scout once he completes his advanced training, which follows his basic training in Georgia.
Gallagher spent considerable time his senior year with the Army recruiters based on Main Street, working out and preparing for what’s ahead.
“It’s amazing the support the Somerville community has given,” the mayor said. “We’ve had a number of celebrations because we’re very proud of what he is doing; we wanted his family and friends to be around him, supporting his decision. “We’ve invited a lot of people to the house, friends, family; we had a small gathering last night with close family and a few friends; everybody on the way out the door gave him big hugs, pats on the back and said ‘thank you for what you’re doing.’ ’’