The late Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tommy Sullivan has been named grand marshal for the 2016 St Patrick’s Day parade in Springfield, MA. It is the first time the parade, one of the largest in the US, has honored anyone posthumously with the title of grand marshal.
Sullivan, 40, was killed in the July 16 shooting attack at a U.S. Navy Reserve center in Chattanooga. The killer was identified as 24-year old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a native of Kuwait, in what was described as a copycat ISIS shooting. Abdukazeez had written about his desire for martyrdom. He also had mental problems.
The medical examiner in Tennessee labeled Sgt Sullivan's death as having been caused by "multiple gunshot wounds" during a "terrorist attack."
Sullivan was a hero. A colleague wrote to the family saying: "The only thing on his mind was if his Marines were OK. He had a chance to jump the fence and run, but instead he ran back to make sure (I) and the others inside and the Marines that were shot were okay. He will be sadly missed. I am proud just to have known him."
Phil Hanrahan, secretary of the Springfield St Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, said that Sullivan was chosen posthumously because "he is an honest hero who was proud of his Irish heritage."
Hanrahan said that following nominations, Sullivan, a Purple Heart recipient, was chosen by the 60 members of the parade committee.
Masslive.com reports that Sullivan was born and raised in Springfield, growing up in the East Forest Park neighborhood. He attended Holy Cross School and Cathedral High School, where he played football. He studied criminal justice at American Military University.
He joined the Marines in 1997 and earned the rank of gunnery sergeant in 2011. Sullivan completed two tours of duty in Iraq and was deployed to Korea. He would sometimes speak to the students at Holy Cross School when he was home from deployment.
He was a huge fan of the Dropkick Murphys, a Celtic punk band.
His great-grandmother is from Castlemaine, Co. Kerry, and his great- grandfather was from Castle Berehaven, Co. Cork.
On March 20, Sullivan’s parents, sister, brother, nephew and nieces will lead the Springfield contingent down the streets of Holyoke in the 2016 St. Patrick's Parade.