| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Mayor Domenic Sarno called the dedication of Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan Park as both “a solemn event, a celebration event.”
There were both tears and laughter at the event on Nov. 9 recognizing the life of the Springfield native and Marine who sacrificed his life while helping others during an attack on a Naval Reserve Center in Chattanooga, TN, on July 16, 2015.
Sarno said Sullivan “never forgot his Springfield roots “ and the park “turned a tragic moment into a positive legacy.”
Sullivan was a Cathedral High School graduated and earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from American Military University. He was in the Marine Corps for 18 years and had served in Iraq where he was awarded, among other citations, the Purple Heart.
His efforts on 2015 to save people from the attack earned him the Navy and Marine Corps medal for Heroism
Friends and members of the Sullivan family as well as elected officials, gathered at the new park on South Branch Parkway. The park includes walking paths along the water as well as a pavilion.
As Joseph Sullivan, Thomas’ brother noted, it was an area the two played in as boys growing up in the neighborhood.
The new park cost $695,000 to create with the city allocating $250,000, the state donating $400,000 and $45,000 coming from private donations, Patrick Sullivan, the city’s executive director of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management explained to Reminder Publications.
During the ceremony, a representative of Congressman Richard Neal family presented the Sullivan family with a flag that flew over the capitol in his honor. A Marine honor guard than raised the flag then raised the flag at the park.
City Councilor Tim Allen noted the Sullivan family had participated in the design of the park and added he “appreciated the grace of the Sullivan family with everything they’ve gone through.”
Patrick Sullivan noted to the family, “Your love has inspired the great design of this park.”
Joseph Sullivan said of his brother’s heroism that his “actions showed he had that warrior’s heart needed as a Marine.”
He added with a laugh that his brother “enjoyed life to an immature level. At age 40 he still collected comics [books].”
Recalling his own childhood playing with Thomas where the park is now located, Joseph added, “This is a place to push your little brother into the water.”