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Springfield Native Among Marines Killed In Tenn. Attack


A native of Springfield, Massachusetts was reportedly one of the four Marines killed Thursday in an attack by a lone gunman in Chattanooga, Tennessee.   Flags across the city and state were lowered to half-staff, messages of condolence flooded social media, and the fallen Marine’s family asked for privacy to grieve. 

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno expressed “ heartfelt condolences and sympathy” to the family of Thomas Sullivan,40, a Springfield native who was one of the four Marines shot dead by a lone gunman at a reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"This hits home," a shaken Sarno said Friday.  " It was stunning news."

Sarno said he learned of Sullivan’s death early Friday morning after an aide spoke with a member of the family.  The mayor offered the family whatever assistance the city could provide.

" God rest his soul. He leaves a great family and a legacy as a brave warrior who was fighting for oppressed people overseas," said Sarno.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker directed flags flown at half-staff across the state in honor of Sullivan.

Sullivan served two tours of duty in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart, according to the Springfield Republican.  He is survived by his parents, Jerry and Betty Sullivan, two brothers and a sister.

Sullivan’s brother Joseph is an owner of Nathan Bill’s Bar & Restaurant, a fixture in Springfield’s East Forest Park neighborhood.   A large American flag hung over the entrance to the pub Friday morning and three bouquets of flowers had been placed in the doorway.   Employees and patrons of the restaurant declined to comment.

A message posted Thursday night on the restaurant’s Facebook page read: “Rest In Peace Gunnery SGT. Thomas Sullivan. Anyone who went to Holy Cross School, Cathedral High School or grew up in the East Forest Park knew who Tommy was. He was our hero and he will never be forgotten. Please keep his family & friends in your thoughts & prayers. Thank you Tommy for protecting us.”

Hundreds of messages of condolence were posted on the Facebook page.

The Sullivan family Friday issued a statement through an attorney asking for privacy and saying they would not make any public comment in the immediate future.

Nathan Johnson said he knows what the Sullivan family is going through. His brother Markus Johnson, a U.S. Army Private from Springfield, was killed in Iraq in 2004.

" My prayers go to the family and hope the Lord comforts them in this time of lose," he said.

Dan Walsh, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant and former veterans’ services director for the city of Springfield, said his daughter and Sullivan were classmates at Cathedral.

" I heard nothing but great things about him. It is a devastating loss. This man was a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps, and that is the heart and soul of the Marine battalion," said Walsh

Walsh said the attack on the recruiting center in Tennessee caused him to worry about the safety his own son, who is in the Marines.

" They are not protected with arms and I hope they rethink it," he said.

An Army official told Pentagon reporters Friday that tighter security will be considered at recruiting centers. But there are legal issues with arming soldiers in civilian areas.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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