Working on Capitol Hill for nearly eight years, I thought I knew a little bit about how the place worked. I had helped represent five different districts, worked on a myriad of legislative issues, and sat at the table of power fielding requests from thousands of constituents. However, when personal tragedy struck my family, the tables quickly turned and now I was the one on the outside asking members of Congress for help. Sadly, even with my knowledge and experience, few offered any assistance. Few except Ralph Norman.
My name is Sean Gallagher, and I am the brother of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher. The past year and a half of our lives has been without doubt a living hell. Eddie is a decorated and experienced Navy SEAL – the hero of our family. He’s endured eight combat deployments over 20 years, fighting every enemy we’ve had since 9/11. He has amassed accolade after accolade for his bravery and leadership in battle, becoming one of the most well-respected operators among the SEAL teams.
However, during his last deployment to Iraq in 2017, where he successfully carried out President Trump’s order to annihilate ISIS from the Iraqi city of Mosul, he was falsely accused of war crimes. I’ll spare you the salacious details, but the absurd accusations were that he shot at civilians and, after providing life-saving medical care to an injured ISIS fighter, suddenly flipped a switch and stabbed him to death.
Just a few weeks ago, the truth finally came out and my brother was cleared by a jury of his peers after a very costly and public court-martial trial. The accusations were shown to be lies, and the accusers exposed for their deceit. We feel vindicated, but we are still reeling after battling the U.S. government and a pack of careerist Navy lawyers who were hell-bent on sending my brother, a legitimate war hero, to prison for the rest of his life.
The magnitude and terror of the ordeal that Eddie and our family went through will never leave us. Eddie’s kids were taken out at gunpoint from their home during a raid and dragged into the street in their underwear. He was arrested on 9/11 from a TBI (traumatic brain injury) treatment clinic and thrown in jail with a prison population of convicted sex offenders for eight months before his trial. He was denied desperately-needed medical care, legal counsel, and even basic necessities like food and hygiene.
The list of travesties perpetrated against Eddie is almost surreal. As Eddie’s’s wife Andrea put it, they were being terrorized by the government that Eddie has fought for and served for two decades.
So how do you fight something like this? When these injustices began in summer of 2018, I turned to what I knew. I immediately set up meetings with some of my former colleagues on Capitol Hill and all the relevant committees. Yet, despite knowing where to go and who to talk to, I was repeatedly turned down.
The best I got, even from friends, was tacit acknowledgement that this must be awful for us, but nothing could be done. I was told to let the process play out, despite how terribly we were being treated, and that Eddie’s charges were too steep to risk any political capital.
That was until Congressman Norman gave me a call.
From a single interview on the news, Rep. Norman didn’t think Eddie’s case seemed right. He found a way to get a hold of me and set up a meeting to learn more. After filling him in, he consulted with staff and some trusted colleagues, and just like that our family would gain one of the most persistent and staunch allies on Capitol Hill.
Over the next months, Rep. Norman would do almost everything in his power to help. He would park me outside the floor of the House of Representatives and ask his colleagues, despite facing resistance, to hear me out. He would persuade his peers to listen, to look me in the eye, and hear the pain in my voice as I recounted what was happening to Eddie. He would often help me conclude in saying, “This guy fought for us, it ain’t right the way they’re treating him, and we ought to help.”
And it wasn’t always easy supporting the Gallaghers. As we began to call out the injustice of Eddie’s case, the rumors and pushback escalated. Big Navy didn’t like the criticism, and began to leak misinformation and perpetuate a whisper campaign throughout the bureaucracy. Many of Rep. Norman’s meetings with government officials would end with them leaning in and discouraging him from helping us, saying his support would bite him in the rear once Eddie was found guilty.
Despite their sinister efforts, Rep. Norman’s conviction never waned, and his support became a key to our success. His efforts would lead to our family gaining more than 40 signatures on a letter from Congress to the Navy asking for Eddie to be released from his prison-like conditions. The letter worked. Within a week, President Trump ordered that Eddie be moved, and from that point on he was able to mount a legitimate defense and ultimately prove his innocence.
I wish I had the time and space to recount of all the amazing acts of kindness from Rep. Norman, his staff and even his family who reached out with prayers and support during our hardship. Suffice it to say, through the members of Congress I’ve worked for and the hundreds more I’ve interacted with, no one is like Ralph. No one is as kind, as dedicated, or as selfless. He saw a military family in need, and with no possible way of gaining anything from assisting us, did what he thought was right.
With Eddie exonerated and vindication at hand, people now ask our family quite a bit how we climbed the mountain we did. There is no shortage of heroes and angels who helped us along this journey. There is also no secret or foolproof strategy.
The factors I know for certain that played an integral part in our path to victory are this: faith, grit, and a damn good Congressman. To fight the type of injustice that Eddie faced, we needed a leader who was willing to step up to the plate and speak truth to power. We needed Ralph Norman.
There is a phrase often thrown around Capitol Hill attributed to President Reagan, which is: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.” Without seeking any credit, Rep. Ralph Norman legitimately helped save the life of my brother. He removed an innocent man from the clutches of injustice and gave him a fighting chance. He will forever have our thanks, our gratitude and our support.
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