When ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ Came Home and Found Her Father Hanging, Dead From Suicide

Teenager Daughter Whose Marine Corps Father Took His Life Inside Their Camp Pendleton Home in 2006 is Being Honored for Outreach

by Associated Press, April 17, 2012

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. James Gallagher

WASHINGTON — Six years ago, Erin Gallagher found her father, a Marine who had recently returned from war, dead from suicide in a garage.

It was a devastating loss for Gallagher, a self-described “daddy’s little girl” who is now 18 and on the verge of graduating from high school. But the teen from Long Island, N.Y., channeled her grief into doing outreach for an organization that comforts families who have lost loved ones to military service.

“Each milestone, it just gets different and different. I’m doing OK,” said Gallagher, who lost her father, Gunnery Sgt. James Gallagher, in May 2006.

Now she’s being honored for those efforts. Gallagher was being recognized Tuesday evening at an honor guard gala event affair hosted by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, an organization that provides peer mentoring support and other aid to people grieving over a military-related death. The Ted Stevens Leadership Award honors a family member who’s survived the military death of a loved one and who reaches out to help others.

Mary Gallagher with her children: James, Jessica and Erin, right, in 2010. Erin, now 18, received the Ted Stevens Leadership Award April 17, 2012 in Washington, DC. The award honors a family member who’s survived the military death of a loved one and who reaches out to help others. (AP)

Erin’s mother, Mary Gallagher, says her daughter has been active in multiple ways, including participating in a panel discussion on losing a loved one to suicide and working with new “mentors,” or volunteers who sign up to provide solace to grieving relatives.
“It just was beyond painful. It was very hard to make sense of it in the beginning. We all did our best to get through it every day,” Mary Gallagher says of her husband’s suicide. “We could have curled up in a ball and stopped living, but we didn’t choose to do so. We chose to stand up and speak and break the silence of the losses in the military to suicide.”

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Listen to an NPR report on Gunnery Sgt. Gallagher’s family:



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