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Soldier, born here, died without meeting twin sons

November 18, 2003



A soon-to-be father of twins, John R. Sullivan re-enlisted in the U.S. Army to take care of his expanding family.

He never got to meet his twin boys, Gavin and Aidin.

Sullivan, 26, who grew up in suburban Chicago, was among 17 soldiers killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed Saturday in Iraq. He went to Iraq in July and the twins were born in September.

Sullivan was born in Naperville and graduated in 1995 from Lyons Township High School in LaGrange. He had also lived in Bolingbrook and Countryside.

After a five-year stint in the Army, he decided to re-enlist "because his family was going from three to five really quick,'' said a family friend, Sheila Hoffman. "He figured that was the way for his family to be safe'' with medical insurance.

Sullivan and his wife, Katrina, lived near Seattle in the town of Federal Way with their daughter Jade, 10, Hoffman said. He had been stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Sullivan believed that his job in Iraq "was something he needed to do,'' Hoffman said. "There were no complaints, no hesitation. ... He enjoyed being in the military.''

He was the same way as a youth, his teachers recalled.

"He was softspoken; he did his work, he was very loyal,'' said Kate Singletary, his English/Communications teacher at Lyons Township High School. "All those wonderful things you want to be able to say about students.''

"He always did what was asked of him,'' said Dianne Washburn, an art teacher with Pleasantdale School District 107. "Very steady -- you could count on him. I really enjoyed having him in the classroom.''

Sullivan played basketball, softball, and did well in art, Washburn said, adding that he came from a large family of boys.

Sullivan, who held the army rank of specialist, was a wheeled vehicle mechanic, said Lt. Col. Stan Heath, an Army spokesman. He worked in support of the 101st Airborne Division.

The cause of the crash was unknown on Monday, Heath said.

"There was some indication that it could have been shot down,'' Heath said, "likely downed by being fired on by small arms fire, at a minimum, or a rocket propelled grenade."

Another Illinois soldier, Spc. William D. Dusenberry, 30, of Fairview Heights -- an Illinois town near St. Louis -- also died in the crash.

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