War Claims Young Marine Passionate About His Duty

Published: July 27, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, N.J., July 26 - Vincent Michael Sullivan was the definition of determination, his family says.

A born competitor with a kind smile, a keen intellect and a passion for his work, Lance Cpl. Sullivan joined the Marines after Sept. 11, 2001, and was deployed for his second tour in Iraq three weeks ago, where he served in the Scout Sniper Platoon, First Battalion, Second Regiment.

The Chatham resident was killed on Friday in a firefight west of Baghdad. He was 23.

"He did not want to be behind a desk," said his wife, Erika, also 23, at her parents' home here on Monday. "He was there so that other people would not have to be, so that other people would not die. He was there because his instincts told him to be."

Born in Chicago, Corporal Sullivan moved around the country with his family before settling in Chatham, an upper middle-class suburb in Morris County, when he was 15.

During his junior year at Chatham High School, he met his future wife, then Erika Olsen, in an advanced placement physics class, she recalled. The two would pass notes when the teacher was not looking, and things progressed from there.

"I came home after our first date and told my mom, 'I'm going to marry that boy one day,' " she said. "I was so happy."

The two split for a while but stayed in close contact. They began exchanging daily letters after Corporal Sullivan's platoon was first shipped in Iraq in early 2003.

Ms. Sullivan said that last April, she realized how much she loved him and wrote a letter to him expressing her feelings.

As it turned out, Corporal Sullivan had written a nearly identical letter to her at the same time.

The letters passed in the mail, and after Corporal Sullivan returned from his first tour, the two were engaged over Labor Day weekend last year.

A wedding was planned for this month, but the couple pushed up the date and were married on Dec. 27. They went bowling after the ceremony and planned to go to Hawaii for their honeymoon after he left the Marines in July 2006.

"We just bought a house in North Carolina, where he was stationed," Ms. Sullivan said, occasionally holding her husband's white gold wedding band, which hung from a chain around her neck. "We were going to have a family. He wanted a lot of kids - but not until he got out, because he didn't ever want to be away from them or me."

Always good with numbers, Corporal Sullivan worked for a Manhattan accounting firm while taking classes at County College of Morris, said his mother, Susanne Sullivan.

"He flirted with the idea of joining the Marines when he was in high school," his mother said. "But after Sept. 11, he was determined to do the right thing, join the Marines and fight."

He underwent physical therapy to repair ligaments in his shoulder that were torn when he rode his bicycle into a moving car several years ago. He later competed in a decathlon.

"He was always pushing his body to the limits; if he wanted to do something athletic, he did it," said his mother. "He enjoyed being active and competing in many sports."

After spending the past several months working as a desk clerk at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Corporal Sullivan returned to Iraq with his platoon on July 7.

On Monday, Brian Sullivan, 21, recalled his final visit with his brother in June. During a game of basketball, Brian Sullivan remembered, some of the marines playing were expressing fears and doubts about returning to Iraq.

"Not my brother," Mr. Sullivan said. "He was happy, excited to serve. You could see he loved what he was doing and loved the action. He was just so very happy to be going back there."



Rest In Peace