Hometown Wake For Mass. Marine Killed In Chattanooga Shooting Draws Thousands

People in his hometown paid their respects on Sunday to a Massachusetts Marine killed by a gunman who attacked a military facility in Tennessee two weeks ago.

Thousands attended a public wake for Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan at T.P. Sampson Chapel of The Acres on a street lined with flags, the Republican newspaper reported.

Tiffany Harbridge waved a Marine Corps flag, as she did when an honor guard brought Sullivan's body home to Springfield on Friday.

"He has done so much for me, and I never even knew him. This is the very least I could do for him and his family," Harbridge said.

Spokesman John Sampson Sr. said the chapel's parking lot and others nearby were filled before the doors opened at 1 p.m. People still waiting wouldn't be turned away at 5 p.m., when the event was scheduled to end, he said.

Among those who came was Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

Maureen and Walter McFarlin, who knew Sullivan as a child in the East Forest Park neighborhood where he grew up, were early arrivals.

"I remember him doing somersaults on the lawn and cutting through our yard with his sister Diane and I used to yell at him," Maureen McFarlin said.

Brian Willette, Western Massachusetts District Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he didn't know Sullivan, but served with his brother in Afghanistan 10 years ago.

"This is a community-oriented family," he said. "They have embraced the community's support in this horrible time and that speaks to their strength," he said.

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Frank Socco of Springfield came in uniform. "I didn't know him, but I'm here in honor of him," Socco said.

Sullivan, who was 40, joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Cathedral High School. He served two tours in Iraq and was awarded two Purple Hearts.

His family has invited Marines to attend the private funeral Monday morning at Holy Cross Church. Springfield's Roman Catholic Bishop Mitchell Rozanski is scheduled to be the main celebrant and to deliver the homily.

Burial will follow in the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam.

Sullivan was one of five service members killed during an attack on military facilities in Chattanooga on July 16. The gunman was killed by police.

Sullivan is survived by his parents, a sister and brother, nieces and nephews.

This article was originally published on July 26, 2015.



More from WBUR

Listen Live