While Dan Gallagher was deservedly known for his work for veterans, I wished the Dec. 29 headline had included “Missoula’s Peacemaker of the Year 2012” and the story had included his outstanding work for peace, understanding and reconciliation. I was pleased to see the Dec. 31 obituary mentioned the peacemaker award and his friends in Missoula’s peace community, especially Betsy Mulligan-Dague and Jan Selby.
The story of Dan’s award as Missoula’s 2012 Peacemaker had its beginning several years earlier when filmmaker Jan Selby visited Missoula’s Big Sky Documentary Film Festival with her short film about the peace symbol. As locals inundated her with stories of Missoula’s peace sign on the hill, she became interested, and started pursuing Missoula’s story for a longer film. After hearing Dan’s “I hated it…” and listening more, she realized that the real story was contained in the conflict and the peacemaking process, personified by Dan. Due to Jan’s genius and dedication, the making of the documentary, “Beyond the Divide,” itself became peacemaking at the highest level for all involved. Peacemaking continues as thousands of viewers across the nation absorb Dan’s story, feel compassion for Dan and other veterans, and are inspired to a deeper understanding of peacemaking.
I believe that sharing his story brought Dan much of the peace he had lost in Vietnam. In a conversation at this year’s peacemaker award gathering, Dan told me he had come to terms with the peace sign. He seemed pleased and at peace.
Dan was loved by the peace community and we will miss him. Please join us in honoring his memory by trying to follow Betsy Mulligan-Dague’s example of reaching out, listening to the other side, and trying to bridge the divide. It isn’t easy, at least for me. If you’d like to learn more about Dan and the film, visit beyondthedividefilm.com.