Photo Information

A Marine Corps rifle team fires the three-volley salute for Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan’s funeral July 27, 2015, at Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawan, Massachusetts. Sullivan was one of five victims of the Chattanooga, Tennessee shootings July 16, 2015. Sullivan was described by his family and fellow Marines as a Marines Marine, and always had a quirky smile that resembled a kid in a candy store.

Photo by Cpl. J. Gage Karwick

In memory of Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan

29 Jul 2015 | Cpl. J. Gage Karwick The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

“Day is done, gone the sun; From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky; All is well, safely rest; God is nigh.” (Lyrics to TAPS)

Taps is a familiar bugle call for all who have a relation to the United States military. What began as the call to extinguish all light and turn to rest has become the symbol of eternal rest for those fallen heroes of the military.

The tune was heard as Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Battery Gunnery Sergeant with  Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, was laid to rest July 27, 2015 near Springfield, Massachusetts after he and three other Marines and one sailor were killed during the tragic shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee July 16, 2015.

“My brother was always and will be forever a gunnery sergeant and United States Marine,” said Dianne Caron, Sullivan’s sister, during her remarks at the funeral service. “He was a brother, son, uncle, cousin, nephew and a grandson. He was a friend to all, if you knew Tommy, he would say, ‘see that guy, he’s my friend,’ and that was before social media. Once a friend to Tommy, always a friend.”

The statement could not have been truer as family, friends and strangers showed up in the hundreds filling the moderate sized Holy Cross Church in Springfield where Sullivan was once an altar boy. The streets in the surrounding area as well as the procession route to Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawan, Massachusetts, were also full of supporters from the local community members.

Sullivan’s sister Dianne recalled just how much he cherished his family and his Marines during her remarks at his service.

“All the times he went away he was told to come home safe,” said Dianne. “But he told us that his job was to keep us safe and to bring home his Marines. He could never guarantee his own safety, to us it was really no surprise. My grandmother always said, ‘Thomas you just bring home more medals,’ and so the medals sit in her home with pride.”

When asking others to describe what kind of man and Marine Sullivan was the only response was ‘Tommy was Tommy, a Marine’s Marine.’ He was a practical joker who greeted everyone with a smile that resembled a kid in a candy store, and he spent all the time he could with those he loved especially his nieces and nephew.

“He loved to do crazy things with his nieces and nephew,” said Mary-Kate Caron, Sullivan’s niece, during her remarks. “Every Fourth of July we would wait for him to come home because his firework displays were legendary. He liked to do it Marine style, but Tommy was Tommy and everything was over the top. He spent much of his time with us on vacation, he never called it leave, he told us one would never leave the Marines.”

Many who came to pay their respects previously served alongside Sullivan, and had their stories and memories to share as well.

“We came up in the Marine Corps together, everyone in the battalion knew everyone,” said Gunnery Sgt. Mark Kamenszky, a friend of Sullivan’s. “Our relationship was the typical Marine Corps one; when I left for Operation Iraqi Freedom we parted ways and then I went on recruiting duty, came off then went to Camp Lejeune, then I see Sulli again, and it’s like, I haven’t seen this guy in years! But nothing had changed; we picked up right where we left off. It was like we were lance corporals again.”

As Kamenszky continued his memories with Sullivan, one story brought back quirky memories of the practical joker Sullivan was.

“He use to come into my office all the time while I was working,” said Kamenszky. “I’m that type of guy that always has one more email to send, but he would say ‘let’s go to chow…let’s go to chow.’ and I always had something else to do, so he would unplug my computer monitor and say ‘work’s done, let’s go.’”

All the memories of time spent among friends and family will never be lost, practical jokes, games and antics, never to be forgotten. The usual kid in the candy store with the quirky smile is eternally etched into the minds of all who knew him. Tommy was Tommy and a grateful nation says farewell.

 “Day is done, gone the sun; From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky; All is well, safely rest; God is nigh.”