Public invited to honor Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith
The public is invited to show respect today as Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, the fifth victim of the July 16 shootings at the Navy/Marine operations center, is memorialized and laid to rest.
The funeral is set for 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Fort Oglethorpe, with burial to follow in the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
The family is asking the public to line the processional route to show support.
The procession is expected to leave the church at around 2:45 p.m.
The motorcade will follow LaFayette Road north to Battlefield Parkway and then to Interstate 75 north and Highway 153 North. The procession will exit at Amnicola Highway, then turn on Wilcox Boulevard and Holtzclaw Avenue to the cemetery.
* Holtzclaw from Bailey Avenue to 12th Street will be closed beginning at 3 p.m. Detours will be posted.
* Highway 153 North will be closed from approximately 3:30 p.m. until the procession passes. Traffic will be stopped at crossroads as the procession passes. Non-processional traffic is urged to avoid these sections of I-75 and Highway 153 between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m.
On Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan's first drill period with Mike Battery, he didn't stand before his group. Instead, they stared at a garden gnome.
The gnome looked just like Sullivan, members of Mike Battery remember. Someone had bought it at Wal-Mart, just to mess with him. But even though he was in a position of authority in one of the most justifiably straight-faced groups in the country, Sullivan took the joke in stride.
He always had a good sense of humor, his colleagues say. And he cared about the lower ranks, always checking in with the younger Marines, making sure they could handle the stresses of the job.
"He wasn't one of those guys that wouldn't do stuff because he was a gunny," said Sgt. Jeff Cantu, a supply chief with Mike Battery. "He helped the Marines. Cared about us. He'd come back and tell us we were working too late and we needed to go home."
Sullivan, 40, was one of five military servicemen killed during an attack on the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway on July 16. Fellow Marines said he helped 14 people escape over a fence as his unit rushed to flee the gunman's bullets.
Eleven days later, in his hometown of Springfield, Mass., Sullivan's family and friends gathered for a funeral Monday at Holy Cross Church, where Sullivan attended services as a child.
He is the fourth servicemen to be buried in four days. This afternoon, at First Baptist Church of Fort Oglethorpe, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith will be the final funeral tied to the mass shooting. Smith's funeral will begin at 2 p.m. and will be followed by a burial at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
On Monday, Roman Catholic Bishop Mitchell Rozanski remembered Sullivan.
"As a follower of Jesus," he said, "Tommy knew the strength of faith that made him an exemplary Marine, a leader and a man of courage."
The funeral was a private service, reserved for family, friends, Marines and dignitaries, including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal. But outside Sullivan's funeral, as in the other three services that have happened in Wisconsin, Atlanta and Chattanooga thus far, hundreds of strangers lined up.
They said they came to show support for the family of the serviceman. They carried American flags and posters and lined the streets between the church and the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam, Mass., where Sullivan was buried following the funeral.
On Sunday, local residents attended a public wake for Sullivan at T.P. Sampson Chapel of The Acres. By the time the wake began at 1 p.m., thousands stood outside. So many people showed up that some were still waiting to get into the chapel four hours later when the wake was scheduled to end.
A similar-sized group also lined the streets when Sullivan's body returned to Springfield on Friday. Tiffany Harbridge was among that group, waving her Marine Corps flag as an honor guard passed.
"He has done so much for me and I never knew him," she said. "This is the very least I could do for him and his family."
Sullivan is survived by his parents, his brother and his sister. He served two tours in Iraq and earned two Purple Hearts before his death. His brother owns a bar in Springfield, where employees held a tribute to Sullivan in the days after the shooting. The tribute included beers, flowers, notes, candles, American flags and a bagpipe player.
"His deep love for his family, his selfless dedication to being a Marine and his solid faith in God helped Tommy through the many challenges that he faced in training for service, in his deployments to Iraq, in being a leader for his fellow Marines and facing the danger of July 16," Rozanski said Monday during the funeral.
Back in Chattanooga, members of Mike Battery remember Sullivan on simpler terms
"He was always thanking us," said Staff Sgt. Christoper "Chase" Estep. "Thanking me for doing administrative stuff. Thanking my clerks. Just thanking everybody who worked with him.
"And you don't see that in the Marine Corps. You truly don't get a 'Thank you' from anybody."
Staff writer Shelly Bradbury and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@times freepress.com or at 423-757-6476.