By Lance Cpl. Niles Lee, Marine Corps Forces Reserves
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt were posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat award, at Ross’s Landing Riverside Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, May 7, 2017.
Sullivan and Wyatt were awarded the medal for their actions during the July 16, 2015 shooting that occurred at the Naval Reserve Center Chattanooga and also killed Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith.
“We talk about these men so that we do not forget their sacrifice,” said Maj. Chris Cotton, former Inspector-Instructor for Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, the unit that Sullivan and Wyatt were assigned to.
According to eye witness statements and 911 transcripts during the event, Sullivan and Wyatt took charge in the evacuation of unit personnel and contacting authorities. They also returned to the scene of the incident when personnel were unaccounted for, risking their lives in the process.
“This is a day to celebrate the heroic, exemplary, and selfless service of two great Marines, who were by all counts great human beings, devoted Marines, and wanting nothing more than to take care of their Marines,” said Maj. Gen. Burke W. Whitman, commanding general of 4th MARDIV, who attended the ceremony along with Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Miller, sergeant major of 4th MARDIV.
During the ceremony, Cotton presented the medal to Jerry and Betty Sullivan, parents of GySgt Sullivan; and to Lorri Wyatt, wife of SSgt Wyatt.
“It’s a great honor and we’re humbled by it, it’s something you don’t want to receive but it’s good to have him recognized for the actions he took that day,” said Jerry Sullivan.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps who perform an act of heroism at great personal and life-threatening risk to the awardee.
The Reserve Center, the Chattanooga community, and across the nation people have all been sending their support and condolences, said Jerry Sullivan.
“We take care of our Marines and families,” said Cotton, “No man gets left behind.”
The ceremony was also attended by members of the local Government, including Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Tennessee’s Congressman Chuck Fleischmann.
“This is truly a touching moment,” said Fleischmann. “As a member of congress, it makes me remember the men and women who serve us in the United States Marines and all our branches, are truly our very best and willing to put on the uniform and make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. These fallen Marines did that and they are being justly honored today.”
Fleischmann also took part in ensuring all the service members who died in the 2015 shooting received Purple Hearts and a permanent memorial at Ross’s Landing Park.
“I hope this does bring a little closure to the families,” said Fleischmann. “But I also hope it forever honors and serves and memories of these fallen heroes, and they are heroes to America.”