Gallagher was interviewed in September 2016 at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan by General (Retired) David H. Petraeus. In January 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren read his Boston Globe op-ed "Trump Rejects the Muslims Who Helped Us" on the U.S. Senate Floor.
Gallagher was born in Reno, Nevada, to attorneys Deborah Scott Gallagher and Dennis Gallagher. He and his brother Luke attended Brookfield School and Bishop Manogue High School, where Matt edited the school newspaper and ran cross country and track. He graduated in 2001.
Gallagher then attended Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He joined Army ROTC the week before 9/11, and decided to honor this commitment after the September 11 attacks. While at Wake Forest, Gallagher was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity and served as the sports editor of the Old Gold & Black. He graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, commissioning into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant in the Armor Branch.
Gallagher trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he attended and graduated the Armor Officer Basic Course and Army Reconnaissance Course. He was subsequently assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He deployed with this unit in 2007 as a scout platoon leader with 2-14 Cavalry to Saba al-Bor, a sectarian village northwest of Baghdad. He was promoted to the rank of captain in July 2008, and was then reassigned to 1-27 Infantry, part of the famed 27th Infantry Regiment, where he served as a targeting officer. He and his unit returned to Schofield Barracks in February 2009, and Gallagher left the Army later that year. He earned the Combat Action Badge during his deployment to Iraq.
While deployed to Iraq, Gallagher wrote about his experiences there on a military blog. Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal was a popular blog from November 2007 to June 2008, before it was shut down by the writer's military chain-of-command. Gallagher went by the pseudonym of LT G, wrote about the front-line experiences in the Iraq War as a United States Army soldier. A scout platoon leader, LT G often incorporated the trials and tribulations of his platoon in his writings, offering a brash and brutally honest perspective of modern warfare. Kaboom was shut down, and subsequently deleted, after Gallagher made a post detailing his turning down of a promotion in an effort to stay with his soldiers.
Before Kaboom was shut down, it was one of the few military blogs to garner attention and press coverage from the print media. This can be attributed to LT G's literary writing style. In a nationally published story chronicling the rise and fall of Kaboom, LT G was revealed to be Gallagher, who had been promoted to captain soon after his blog was shut down.
After leaving the Army, Gallagher moved to New York City and wrote his war memoir, Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War, which was published in April 2010 by Da Capo Press. It received much critical acclaim. Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times praised Gallagher for "his love of language, acquired as an avid reader, and his elastic voice as a writer - his ability to move effortlessly between the earnest and the irreverent, the thoughtful and the comic."
In The Wall Street Journal, Bing West wrote that "Understanding that comedy best captures the irony of the human condition, Mr. Gallagher pokes fun at himself, his soldiers and those above him ... Without a trace of sentimentality, Mr. Gallagher draws the reader into the everyday complexities of leading soldiers from every strata of American society ... Mr. Gallagher is too modest, and too ironic, to tout his own accomplishments, so I'll do it for him: He is a classic representative of the U.S. military, a force that imposed its will, both physical and moral, to shatter al Qaeda."
Post-Kaboom, Gallagher has written for a variety of magazines and publications, to include The Atlantic, Boston Review, The New York Times and Wired. He graduated from Columbia University with an MFA in fiction in 2013.
Gallagher and Roy Scranton co-edited Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War (Da Capo, 2013), an anthology of literary fiction by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Fire and Forget featured an introduction by National Book Award Winner Colum McCann, and stories by Colby Buzzell, David Abrams, Phil Klay, Siobhan Fallon, Gavin Kovite, Jacob Siegel, and others. The New York Daily News wrote that "Some of America's greatest works of literature have come from its wars. Be it Stephen Crane, E.L. Doctorow, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon, James Jones or Tim O'Brien, war has been memorialized, glorified, satirized and revealed in all its valor and depredation ... Now, as another comes to a close, a new generation of authors will come forward to define themselves through their own fictional narratives. Among the finest have been enlisted in Fire and Forget."
In September 2014, Atria/Simon & Schuster acquired Gallagher's first novel, Youngblood, from ICM Partners. Published February 2016, Youngblood received early endorsements from authors Richard Ford, Tim O'Brien, Ben Fountain, Claire Vaye Watkins and Phil Klay, among others, as well as starred reviews from trade publications Kirkus Reviews and Booklist. It was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month, selected to The Millions Most Anticipated of 2016, and chosen by iBooks as a "What We're Reading" selectee.
Reviewing for The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani wrote of Youngblood, "On one level, the novel is a parable - with overtones of Graham Greene's The Quiet American - about the United States and Iraq and the still unfurling consequences of the war ... Mr. Gallagher has a keen reportorial eye, a distinctive voice and an instinctive sympathy for the people he is writing about ... [This] is an urgent and deeply moving novel." In The Washington Post, Roxana Robinson called the novel ""Layered and complex ... [this is ] smart, fierce and important writing. In Youngblood, Matt Gallagher shows again how war works in the human heart."
The Daily Beast described Youngblood as "America's first great work of reckoning." And The Australian raved over the book, saying, ""Every so often a debut novel charges past the suburban stories tapped out in coffee shops and announces itself as a literary event. Matt Gallagher's Youngblood is one of these books ... [Gallagher's] descriptions of combat's aftermath - quiet and taught with pathos - remind me of Siegfried Sassoon. Violent, intelligent, and beautiful, Youngblood is one of the best novels to come out of America's 21st-century wars, with an authority that eclipses most debuts and a literary talent that announces a commanding writer."'
Youngblood has also received positive reviews or been featured in Esquire, The Wall Street Journal and Vogue, among others.Youngblood was selected as a finalist for the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for fiction.