Conor Berry -He was a hero right to the end, according to those who served with Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, one of four Marines killed in a deadly attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Thursday, in what some officials are calling an ISIS-inspired attack.
Sullivan, a Springfield native raised in East Forest Park, was running to save his wounded colleagues when he, too, was shot. He didn't survive.
Known as "Gunny" to his fellow Marines, Sullivan "died a hero yesterday," Marine Sgt. Amanda Vincent told Sullivan's family, who gathered Friday at the Hampden home of his parents, Gerry and Betty Sullivan, to celebrate the life of the 40-year-old, two-time Purple Heart recipient and Iraq veteran.
"The only thing on his mind was if his Marines were OK. He had a chance to jump the fence and run, but instead he ran back to make sure (I) and the others inside and the Marines that were shot were OK," Vincent said in a message to the Sullivan family.
"He will be missed terribly and I'm truly happy I had the chance to know him," she said.
Sullivan and another Marine were about to enter the Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga when they were warned that the gunman was exiting.
"They ran back to the Marines outside and (Sullivan) made sure they all jumped over the fence and got away," Vincent said.
Sullivan and the other Marine were the last two who needed to jump the fence. The other Marine scaled the fence, but when he looked back, "Gunny was gone," Vincent said. Sullivan had instead gone to help other wounded Marines before he also sustained fatal injuries.
Besides his parents, Sullivan is survived by his siblings, Joe Sullivan and Dianne Sullivan Caron, nieces and nephews, and many other family members. The family has yet to announce funeral arrangements.