The memory of a slain U.S. Marine from Massachusetts is embodied in a new house built by hundreds of volunteers that will soon be owned and occupied by a military family.
“Tommy’s House,” a two-story home built on Carew Street in the Hungry Hill neighborhood of Springfield, is a partnership between Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity and the family of fallen Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan.
The keys to the house were handed to future homeowners Brandon and Sara Klein Tuesday morning in a dedication ceremony held in the backyard.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who has become close with the Sullivan family, attended the ceremony. He said it was poignant way to recognize the week of Memorial Day.
"I think in many ways this is a statement by the Sullivan family to the Klein family about the greater family in Springfield and the people they stand for, look out for, and want to support," said Baker, adding "I am really honored to be here today."
Sullivan was killed on July 16, 2015 during an Isis-inspired terrorist attack by a gunman who fired more than 100 rounds at two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Decorated multiple times for heroism, Sullivan served 18 years in the Marines with two combat tours in Iraq.
Klein, who is on active duty with the Army National Guard in Springfield, will move into the new house with his wife Sara and their three children – ages 6, 3, and 1-year old – later this year. He said they currently live in a cramped apartment.
" Overwhelmed, excited," said Klein when asked for his thoughts. " We are just thankful for this opportunity."
Founded more than 30 years ago to provide homeownership opportunities for low-income families, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 60 houses in Springfield, according to Robert Perry, the president of the Springfield chapter of the nonprofit organization.
This is the first one built specifically for a military family.
" We broke ground on Veterans Day ( 2018) and we are having the dedication today, as close to Memorial Day as we could make it with governor's schedule," said Perry.
The house is not free. The Kleins put in about 500 hours in sweat equity to help build it in lieu of a cash down payment. They had to obtain a low interest mortgage.
Sullivan’s aunt Dianne Mullin was a volunteer with Habitat, who connected the organization with her family.
"We've done a ton of fundraisers, and I actually work on these houses. It is so heartwarming," said Mullin.
" I think this family is a perfect fit for Tommy's legacy. He would be so happy to help a family like that in their time of need," she said.
Mullin said she has heard from other Habitat for Humanity chapters in Massachusetts expressing interest in partnering with the Sullivan family to build another house.