Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Thomas J Sullivan

Springfield, Massachusetts

July 16, 2015

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
40 Marine GSgt

 

 2 tours in Iraq, 2 purple hearts. - Killed by a terrorist in the USA.

From massachusetts Live masslive.com 07/17/15:

Chattanooga shooting: Springfield native Thomas Sullivan among Marines killed

By Conor Berry 
on July 17, 2015 at 8:20 AM, updated July 17, 2015 at 10:09 PM

SPRINGFIELD — He grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, survived two tours of duty in Iraq, and earned two Purple Hearts. But, according to his family, he died in a domestic terrorist attack on Thursday, July 16, 2015, at the hands of a madman in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who shot up a Naval reserve center, killing four Marines and wounding three others.

His name is Thomas J. Sullivan, 40, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, one of three kids of Jerry and Betty Sullivan. He grew up in the East Forest Park section of Springfield, graduated Cathedral High School and went on to serve his country in Iraq.

Just a few days ago, Sullivan was jogging along Mill Road in Hampden, Massachusetts, where his parents live. Now, he's the latest entry in a chapter of American history in which people who view the nation as a foe attack citizens on American soil in the name of such and such a cause and for such and such an alleged transgression, if the same motive for past incidents holds true.

The Sullivans didn't see this coming, and who would; the assassination of Tommy Sullivan was something that came out of left field, according to his family. Tommy's brother, Joe, a local Springfield publican and a war vet himself, was still trying to comprehend what happened Thursday night. Joe is an owner of Nathan Bill's Bar & Restaurant, a gathering place in the same East Forest Park neighborhood in which he and his brother grew up.

Tommy's mother, Betty, and father, Jerry, were equally shell-shocked. His sister, Dianne, and her family were among those who gathered at the family home in Hampden to make sense of the tragedy – the latest apparent terrorist attack on domestic soil that has unnerved everyday citizens in post-9/11 America, lending credence to the notion that we aren't as secure as we ought to be.

Joe said the act was committed by that of a lost person, a lunatic, and not necessarily someone with a political agenda, though others aren't convinced that the animus was devoid of anti-American sentiment.

According to officials, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez unleashed his rampage on Thursday morning for reasons that remain under investigation, stoking fears that Islamist fundamentalism has come home to roost in America. Abdulazeez was killed in a shoot-out with Chattanooga police near the scene of the killings.

In Hampden, a suburb of Springfield that has retained its rural character despite the pressures of modernity, the Sullivan clan was trying to come to terms with a family story that's still too raw to explain in rational terms to the younger generation of Sullivans.

Joe Sullivan, by all accounts a guy with a good head on his shoulders, buried his face into a friend's shoulder, cursing the confusion and surreal nature of the day's events. His brother brought home two Purple Hearts – "One for each tour in Iraq," Joe said.

The family produced the sterile military document announcing Tommy's death, a piece of paper that didn't seem any more important than the TV Guide, reporting his passing matter-of-factly and without much detail. They looked at it, sipped their beers, then tried to process what had happened.

Jerry Sullivan, a Hungry Hill kid at heart, was stunned by the document, sent by U.S. military officials to let the Sullivans know that their middle child had been killed for reasons yet unknown.

For the Sullivans, the next few days will be extremely difficult, says Joe Sullivan, who's asking residents of the 413 to lower their American flags to half staff in honor of Tommy Sullivan, who thankfully left behind no children.

But, he did leave behind a family who loves him and honors him, and who wants desperately to understand what transpired in Tennessee.
From WREG News Channel 3 wreg.com 07/17/15

Marines killed in Chattanooga attack identified
POSTED 5:59 AM, JULY 17, 2015, BY GEORGE BROWN, KELSEY OTT AND CNN WIRE

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The four Marines killed in a domestic terrorism attack Thursday in Chattanooga have been identified.

They are Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt and Sgt. Carson Holmquist.

Family members and friends said Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan was shot and killed in the attack.

He was an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

Originally from Springfield, Massachusetts, Gunnery Sgt. Sullivan joined the Marines in 1997.

“He was our hero,” a Facebook post states, “and he will never be forgotten.”

Lance Cpl. Wells was another of those gunned down, according to friends of his family.

A 2012 graduate of Sprayberry High in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Georgia, he was studying history at Georgia Southern University.

He had loved being part of his high school’s ROTC program.

Many members of his family served in the military, said Garrett Reed, a close friend of Lance Cpl. Wells.

“He loved his country,” Reed said.

Staff Sgt. Wyatt, originally from Russellville, Arkansas, was also killed, according to The Tennesseean.

Fox News named Sgt. Holmquist, originally of Grantsburg, Wisconsin, as the fourth victim.

Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire at two military recruitment centers.

Shots were first fired at the Armed Forces Career Center, then the Naval Reserve support center where the Marines were hit.
From Fox 8 Cleveland fox8.com 07/17/15

Marines mourned: Names of those killed in Chattanooga shooting are released
POSTED 10:10 AM, JULY 17, 2015, BY CNNWIRE, UPDATED AT 04:44PM, JULY 17, 2015

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — They joined the Marines to serve their country, willing to go to dangerous lands out of a sense of duty, idealism and patriotism.

Ultimately, they died in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Authorities are still trying to piece together why Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez killed four Marines at a Navy operational center in the southeastern Tennessee city, which is thousands of miles from any war zone but unfortunately not bloodshed.

The Marines killed were Carson Holmquist, David Wyatt, Skip Wells and Thomas J. Sullivan, according to multiple sources.

Terrorism is being investigated as one possibility, especially considering that a military recruiting center was also shot at, though it was not immediately known if Abdulazeez had any connection to any known terrorist group.

Nor is it known if he had any link to the four people killed or the others wounded — one a male sailor in “pretty serious condition” after surgery, according to a Pentagon official, and the other identified by a law enforcement source as responding Chattanooga police Officer Dennis Pedigo, who was shot in the ankle.

Whatever the motive, it’s clear that four families are hurting badly, as is the community at large.

“Each of these men who lost their lives had served incredibly well,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told CNN on Friday morning. “We’re heartbroken.”

Thomas Sullivan: ‘He was our hero’

Massachusetts officials say one of the victims is Thomas Sullivan, a Springfield native who was a Marine Corps. gunnery sergeant. Gov. Charlie Baker posted a picture of Sullivan on Facebook and the words “terror comes home to Massachusetts,” and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno lamented an “assassination” and “tragic loss.”

“Sgt. Sullivan dedicated his life in brave service to his country,” Sarno said, “and to see it end under such tragic circumstances is heartbreaking.”

Flags were lowered to half-staff outside City Hall, and city spokesman James Leydon said Sullivan’s family is “still trying to come to terms with it all.” So, too, are people in the community, like resident Jim Sheremeta, who said the death hit close to home.

“My heart just went down to my toes because I said, ‘My God,’ ” he said.

John Sullivan, co-owner with Thomas’ brother Joe of Nathan Bill’s Bar and Restaurant in Springfield, changed his Facebook profile picture to a split shot of his smiling brother in uniform and a black ribbon over the Marines Corps logo. The ribbon has the words “in remembrance,” and below it appears, “R.I.P. Tommy.”

The Facebook page describes the late Marine as a graduate of Cathedral High School who grew up in Springfield’s East Forest Park neighborhood and went on to become a gunnery sergeant.

“He was our hero,” one post states, “and he will never be forgotten.”

Skip Wells: ‘You couldn’t find a nicer guy’

Skip Wells was another of those gunned down, according friends of his family.

A 2012 graduate of Sprayberry High in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Georgia, where he was in the band, Wells went on to study history at Georgia Southern University. The school said Wells was enrolled there from 2012 through fall 2013.

Just last month, his mother, Cathy, posted touching words about the love between her and her son, to which Skip replied that he would readily carry his mother to safety “on my back … with a weapon.” Pictures posted recently to Facebook also showed mother and son on a trip to Disney World.

When asked Friday about her son’s death, Cathy Wells said, “My son died doing what he loved for the love of his country and his family.”

Many who knew him and his mother posted tributes to him on social media, like one man who said that his “heart is breaking.”

Many members of Wells’ family, including his mother, served in the military, Garrett Reed said. Wells loved being part of his high school’s ROTC, or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, program.

“He loved his country,” said Reed, a close friend since fourth grade who considered Wells’ mother his own “second mother.”

And Wells, himself, was loved by those who knew him.

“He was a real genuine guy, he had a real caring spirit, (and was a) funny dude,” Reed said. “Just a real, real nice guy. You couldn’t find a nicer guy than him.”

CNN’s Tina Burnside, AnneClaire Stapleton, Mi Seon Lee, Bob Crowley and David Shortell contributed to this report.
From CNN cnn.com 07/18/15:

Fifth service member dies after Chattanooga shooting
By Ed Payne and Victor Blackwell, CNN

Chattanooga, Tennessee (CNN)U.S. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith, wounded in a shooting rampage in Tennessee, died early Saturday, according to a family member. He is the fifth American service member killed in the attack.

Darlene Proxmire, Smith's step-grandmother, said the logistics specialist was shot in the attack at the Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga. It was one of two military sites in the city that were targeted by a gunman Thursday.

The U.S. Navy confirmed the death, saying Smith died at 2:17 a.m.

Smith saw the shooter and warned people around him, according to family members. But he was unable to get away. Smith was shot in the liver, colon and stomach, said his grandmother, Linda Wallace.

Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez opened fire, shooting seven people, including four Marines who died that day.

The two surviving wounded are a Marine recruiter who was shot in the leg and a responding Chattanooga police officer, Dennis Pedigo, who was shot in the ankle.

A community in mourning
On Friday, hundreds in Chattanooga packed Olivet Baptist Church for a prayer vigil. There were Christians. There were Muslims. A cross-section of the Tennessee community

"I thought it was beautiful ... the community coming together," Iman Ali told CNN affiliate WTVC. "It was truly something beautiful and I wanted to be there to honor the lives of those Marines."

Korean War veteran Arch Burton talked of the collective hurt the nation was experiencing.

"We fought to preserve this great country which is America and when one is down, all are down," he said.

There was talk of healing and moving forward.

"Tonight, love and forgiveness and belief in one another was the theme, because that's what 'Chattanooga Strong' means," Mayor Andy Berke told affiliate WDEF.

The military earlier released the names of the four Marines killed Thursday -- Thomas Sullivan, a native of Hampden, Massachusetts; Squire "Skip" Wells, a native of Marietta, Georgia; David Wyatt, a native of Burke, North Carolina; and Carson Holmquist of Grantsburg, Wisconsin.

All were combat veterans, according to a senior Defense official.

When the shooting broke out, they went into combat mode, had everybody drop to the floor, and then "cleared the room" by having everyone go out the back, the official said. All seven people in the center survived, and reports indicate those Marines helped save lives.

Timeline: U.S. military recruiting center attacks, from New York to Chattanooga

The investigation
Authorities have seized four guns connected with Abdulazeez, a law enforcement official said.

Abdulazeez had a handgun and two long guns in his possession when police killed him at a Navy Operational Support Center, and another rifle was seized when police searched his home, the official said.

Abdulazeez obtained at least one of his firearms from a seller via the Internet, law enforcement sources told CNN, and at least two other firearms were bought from licensed firearms dealers.

The handgun was registered in his name, the source said. Officials believe the shotgun and AK-47-style gun were legally obtained, the source said.

The 24-year-old engineering graduate wore a "load-bearing vest" that allowed him to carry extra ammunition, said Ed Reinhold, special agent in charge of the regional FBI office.

The rampage
Thursday's shooting spree began at a strip mall when Abdulazeez opened fire on a military recruiting center.

Over the next half hour, the gunman, a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, drove his rental car to the Navy operational support center seven miles away, a law enforcement official said.

Police Chief Fred Fletcher told CNN that police followed and engaged Abdulazeez somewhere on the road after that, then again at the second site. He said authorities are still trying to determine whether police saw him ram the gates of the center, get into the facility and shoot and kill the four Marines.

Abdulazeez kept police at bay for some time before himself being killed.

"All indications are he was killed by fire from the Chattanooga police officers," Reinhold told reporters. "We have no evidence he was killed by self-inflicted wounds."

Looking for a motive
Authorities are trying to figure out why Abdulazeez -- an accomplished student, well-liked peer, mixed martial arts fighter and devout Muslim -- went on the killing spree.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said the shootings are being investigated as an "act of domestic terrorism," but he noted the incident has not yet been classified as terrorism.

Reinhold said there is nothing to connect the attacker to ISIS or other international terror groups. Abdulazeez was not on any U.S. databases of suspected terrorists.

In response to the shootings, some governors have taken steps to increase security of National Guard recruiters and military facilities in their states. States control their National Guard units, so governors can make decisions about Guard actions, whereas the president is commander in chief of the nation's military branches.

Under Florida Gov. Rick Scott's order, National Guard members at six state recruitment centers will be relocated to armories until security is improved. In addition, law enforcement agencies will be asked to conduct regular security checks and qualified Guard members will be adequately armed, according to a statement from the governor's office.

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure all of our Guardsmen are safe," Scott told CNN. "We've got to understand that we have people in our country that want to harm our military."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's order will arm National Guard personnel at military facilities throughout the state.

"Arming the National Guard at these bases will not only serve as a deterrent to anyone wishing to do harm to our service men and women, but will enable them to protect those living and working on the base," Abbott said in a statement.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin authorized the arming of certain full-time personnel in military installations throughout the state. "It is painful enough when we lose members of our armed forces when they are sent in harm's way, but it is unfathomable that they should be vulnerable for attack in our own communities," she said in a statement.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued an order to enhance security measures at all National Guard facilities across the state, including recruiting storefronts.

Bergen: History of attacks against U.S. military installations

'Something happened over there'

While Abdulazeez was a devout Muslim, he didn't appear to be radical, according to some who knew him. He was born in Kuwait but became a naturalized American citizen.

Jordanian sources said Abdulazeez had been in Jordan as recently as 2014 visiting an uncle. He had also visited Kuwait and Jordan in 2010, Kuwait's Interior Ministry said.

A longtime friend said Abdulazeez changed after spending time in the Middle East and "distanced himself" for the first few months after returning to Tennessee.

"Something happened over there," Abdulrazzak Brizada told CNN, saying, "he never became close to me like he was before he went overseas ... I'm sure he had something that happened to him overseas."

Shooter recalled as good student, 'great kid'

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