Honoring our fallen BP agents in Tucson Sector…

BP Coin

BP Coin

Hello…I am Samantha Gallagher, widow of Border Patrol agent, Michael Gallagher.  I want to first thank the Border Patrol for asking me to speak today and to all of you that came here to honor our fallen heroes and what they died for.  This is a gesture of honoring our brave men and women who gave their lives protecting our borders…our country.  It is also about remembering those of us that stood behind the men and women wearing the badge every day…we are the families of the fallen agents.

September 2, 2010, was an ordinary day. I was working from home and remember calling Mike around 9:30 am. I was really frustrated that he didn’t answer his phone when I called.   I even thought about the lecture I was going to give him when he got home. What I didn’t know was that he had just been struck by a drunk driver in his service vehicle.  He had only been in his vehicle about four minutes after leaving the Border Patrol station near the U.S. border with Mexico.

It was around 11 am when I got the knock on my door.  I remember running to the door wondering who it could be.  When I opened it, the US Border Patrol was standing on my front door step.  It takes the breath out of me just thinking about it.   I wanted to shut the door hoping they would disappear.  Instead I stood there; not knowing that what would happen next would change my life.

I looked at this man in his green uniform and noticed he was a higher ranking agent.  He had sweat on his forehead and his dark eyes were difficult to read.  He began to speak and I focused in on his lips.  The words came out slowly. It reminds me of watching the movie Sandlot with my sons. There is a scene when the camera zooms in on a police officer’s mouth as he says,

“- F O R E V E R-“ and everything goes into slow motion.  Except the words coming out of this man’s mouth now were, your husband has been in an accident.   After hearing those words I looked up to find Mike’s friends, agents as well, standing behind this man.  I looked into their eyes and saw with disbelief the news that I didn’t want to hear.  Still I held onto hope that they were only going to say he was in the hospital.

The agent then asked to come in.  I backed away from the door and motioned to them.  I could not speak at this moment.  It was as if someone was strangling me, squeezing my throat harder with every breath.  My heart was racing as they entered.  Around the corner came a man I did not see originally. He had a black shirt on with a notebook in his hand.  I remember noticing his young face seemed very nervous.  I stood in the foyer as they all entered my house.  The man in the black shirt looked around at the empty room and said he thought it would be better if we went in and sat down.

They followed me as I walked into the family room.  I took a seat on the couch and the higher ranking agent sat next to me facing me.  I watched the other man clearing toys from the floor to sit in front of me on the other side of the coffee table.  I remember thinking to myself that I wished I would have cleaned up the boys mess from the night before. Our friends had taken places around me on the couch. When I looked up the higher ranking man sat up straight and looked into my eyes. The words he began to say came out like knives piercing my heart.

“I am sorry ma’am, but your husband died.”

Today I stand here feeling as though my life as wife of Border Patrol Agent, Michael Gallagher, was a dream. But what I want is to make it a reality for my sons.  As a mother I have suffered from the tragedy of the loss of my late husband, but more for my children that lost their father.

My children have passed by his empty chair, longed for their father’s love, that is no longer physically there. With their little broken hearts and tear filled eyes they have looked up to the sky to see a precious soul fill the sky. They each have their memories that float through their minds. Some of their memories make them laugh, others make them cry.  The times they shared and the laughs they had are what they think about now when they think about their dad.

They do know that they have the memories to carry with them.  But they miss his laugh, nerf wars and the things left to be taught.

After their father’s death their reality was filled with fear and with few smiles.  When they wanted a warm embrace from their dad. Yet they still have the last hug and kiss their dad gave them before he left for work the night he did not come home.  The last “goodbye” is something they have tucked away in their hearts.

Today as my children sit in this audience with all the other children that have lost their father, they can look around to see all of you that have come here to honor their dads and other fallen agents.  It will give them the pride and comfort knowing their dads died heroes.

Today is not just about my family.  It’s a day when we stop and consider the sacrifices these Border Patrol agents have made. On a day like today the world should stop, for a brief moment, to honor all of the fallen heroes. For those that have given their life for the call of service, morality and personal responsibility.  I believe a true memorial is when a new culture is created from the sacrifices people have made. With that we can give them the recognition they deserve.  We’ve learned from our fallen agents that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I would like to end with the following poem…It is called:

In the Simple Performance of Duty

In the simple performance of duty,
he pinned on a badge,
checked his gear with a practiced eye,
and kissed his loved ones good-bye.

In the simple performance of duty,
he reported for work,
joked with his buddies at roll call,
and made his last trip down the squad room hall.

In the simple performance of duty,
he answered the call
to help the helpless, to find the lost,
no matter the danger or how great the cost.

In the simple performance of duty,
he lay down his life,
for those in peril he tried to save,
our brave friend went to his grave.

In the simple performance of duty,
we honor his deed,
as we carry him to rest in a flag-draped casket,
long after the world has forgotten,
we shall never forget.

Never judge or regret, what he did,
In the simple performance of duty

THANK YOU!

Crazy Courage: A Young Widow’s Survival Guide

Crazy Courage, the book that I wrote has been released for about a month now.  I am really excited about this!

It is about how I found my crazy courage as I faced the unexpected, unfamiliar life after my husband’s untimely death.  He was killed at the age of 32 by a drunk driver in the line of duty. I was faced with a decision…do I hide under the covers or do I face my new life as a widow.  Through my journey I learned many valuable life lessons that I wanted to share with the world. With intimate details and anecdotal stories I hope to encourage others to use their own crazy courage!

I wrote the book in the most simple form I could.  I remember trying to read and comprehend things when I was going through my tribulations.  It was very difficult to understand or remember anything, unless it was in given to me in a direct manner. I thought about this as I was putting Crazy Courage together when I as working with the publisher.

I have been asked by a few people why I wrote the book and I want to share this with you…

Writing Crazy Courage was something I wanted to do to help others. I read quite a few books about grief and losing someone close to you. Some of them were helpful; but I never found one that was written in the present as someone was feeling those emotions.

After losing my husband I wanted to connect with something and not feel so isolated. I had my family and friends that supported me. There were a lot of organizations and other widows that reached out to me, which was such a blessing! Yet there are some things I dealt with privately or even didn’t feel comfortable sharing with others. The fear of being judged and the state of vulnerability I felt was scary.

I was very honest in my book. I shared my internal thoughts and feelings. The book is about lessons I learned in my “first year”, first year being relative. Mixed with these lessons are my journal entries and thoughts. This was hard for me to do, but I feel being authentic is how we can connect with others.

I know each person and situation is unique. I will be happy if a widow/widower picks up my book and even one sentence in it makes them feel encouraged, inspired, or not alone.
As I was writing Crazy Courage, it helped me get through some of my own challenges.

I also wrote the book with intentions to help people gain some insight on what someone’s mind might be going through after they lose a loved one. It’s hard for those that are trying to help or provide support to families and widows/widowers. By reading my book, I hope it provides them with some understanding or insight they need.

In general, people do not discuss mortality. Mortality is sad, awkward and unknown (amongst other things) territory and it can be a scary topic. I do not believe anyone knows the exact right thing to say, but I bet a widow/widower can tell you what they do not want to hear.

I have received so much help and support in my new unfamiliar life that I wanted to give back somehow. I believe I have begun doing this through my book.

 

When you feel alone…

Mike, Samantha and their sons wearing Santa hats at Christmas dinner

Gallagher family’s last Christmas

The day Mike died, I received an amazing amount of support.  People came and there was so much to plan for in a short amount of time.  I did not have much time to think, only in the mornings as the sun was rising.  These were the moments I would cry and repeat to myself that I cannot believe he is dead. Trying to get all of the anguish, fear and sadness out before anyone else would wake up.  As the sun would rise and I would feel the warmth all through my body, I would wonder how I was going to survive another day without him.  But I would gather my strength for the day and walk inside.

After the funeral, life seemed so strange and at times I wished that this was all a dream.  Each night I would fall asleep, if I slept at all, crying.  I would look at the empty space next to me where Mike used to lay.  Some nights I did not know how much more I could stand.  It seemed as though the emptiness was consuming me.  So I would lay where Mike would sleep.  I would smell the pillow and close my eyes absorbing anything I could of him. 

There were days when I would be challenged with getting out of bed.  The needs of my children helped with that.  I knew they needed me and I was able to ignore what I was feeling.  It was easier to ignore myself and focus on my children.  Although this was completely unhealthy I eventually learned how to manage both time for myself and my children.  It was really hard for me to do. 

I think after everyone leaves after the funeral you feel more alone.  There continued to be constant reminders that Mike was gone.  His car sat in the garage, my bed was empty, I could not talk to him and our 2-year-old would ask about his daddy.  He would say ” mom, my daddy died, right?”.  Hearing those words from an innocent child’s mouth creates such instant sadness.  We had to continue to live our lives, go back to our routine, but I did not know how when Mike was part of the routine.  I learned how to pick up all the pieces to move through our  lives without my husband. 

I remember how I could sit in a room full of people and would still feel alone.  It was like I had forgotten how to connect with others or maybe I just didn’t want to.  I felt like a stranger to myself for quite some time.  Until I realized that for so long I was Mike Gallagher’s wife and we were connected, even seemed to have developed into one person.  What I had to learn was to be an individual again and still stay connected with Mike.  He was an intricate part of my life and I wanted him to remain there.  He is still a part of our lives, he just holds a different place now.  I recreated myself.  Somehow that made me feel less alone and capable of being a part of the world again.

An article written about the accused sentencing…

CBP badge with mourning black strip

Almost a year in a half after Mike was killed we got the justice that we wanted and needed.  She was convicted and sentenced.

http://azstarnet.com/news/local/crime/border-agent-s-dui-killer-gets-yrs/article_0617f05f-e8c2-58f9-b116-e8e42bd7b9ee.html