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Veteran Spotlight: Gen. Sullivan Lead Army Into Information Age

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
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Retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan with participants in the inaugural Sullivan Cup precision tank gunnery competition held in 2012 at Fort Benning, Ga. 
 
FALMOUTH, Mass. — This will not be your typical Veterans Spotlight, simply because this gentleman is not your typical veteran.
 
It was an opportunity of a lifetime. What an honor and true pleasure to sit and interview retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan.
 
The former Army chief of staff and retired four-star general served his country from 1959 to  1995. Born in Boston, he grew up in Quincy and graduated from Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., later earning a master's degree from the University of New Hampshire.
 
He served a number of tours overseas and was commander of the 1st Infantry Division, Mechanized, at Fort Riley, Kan., as well as holding deputy command posts at the Army's Armor School and the Command and General Staff College.
 
As Army chief of staff, he was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and served as acting secretary of the Army. He was largely the architect of a new vision for the Army's mission as it the Cold War era came to an end and the Information Age began. 
 
As Sullivan brought me into his home office, I was overwhelmed at being privileged to witness a part of true American history.
 
Framed pictures, flags, awards, personal letters from presidents and commendations surround the room. I asked the general what the stars were on one of his flags (a vice chairman flag) and he replied, "there are 13 of them. They represent the 13 original colonies." 
 
Among all the treasures, were an abundance of extraordinary books that range from military strategy to history to his own, "Hope Is Not a Method," written with Col. Michael V. Harper, which offers advice to business leaders based on their experience in helping prepare a post-Cold War strategy.
 
The most important quality I found in being with the general is despite his military stature, he is one of the most down-to-earth people I've ever met. Sentiments that are shared by many others all over the world.
 
As I took my seat the general, with writing pad in hand, he gave me a copy of the Statement of Guiding Values from Norwich University, where he also had been chairman of the board of trustees.  The core is on integrity, honor, service to nation and perseverance in the face of adversity. 
 
Then he gave a brief overview on the important aspects of the statement values.
 
"You'll find these very important. These values, never change," he told me. He shared a wonderful story of his being at Norwich University. 
 
"I worked in the kitchen to earn extra money. My mother came to me and told me that she couldn't swing college anymore," he said. "One of my classmates signed for some pretty decent money with the Red Sox. I asked him to co-sign a loan for me and he did. I worked as a summer bartender to pay off my debt."
 
Sullivan said his desire to be a soldier came from attending Reserve Officers' Training Corps' summer camp at Fort Knox, Ky., around 1958. 
 
"I loved soldiering," he said. 
 

Gordon R. Sullivan
He served in 14 months in South Korea and did two tours of duty in Vietnam as well as one in Europe. When asked about mentors during his 36-year military career, Sullivan responded quickly, "Julius Becton (three-star general), Carl Vuono (four-star general) and Col. Sidney Hack.
 
"It was Colonel Hack who said to me, you can go the distance – but you gotta' want to do it." 
 
I asked Sullivan his thoughts on being away for the holidays, not as a soldier but as a commanding general.
 
"It was a big concern for me," he said "We had to entertain [the troops]. Had to keep them busy. We tried to keep them out of the fields. It worked in Korea, but not in Vietnam, unfortunately. I wanted to have the appropriate meals for our troops at Thanksgiving and Christmas with the appropriate food, to give them a little feel of home. It was extremely important to me, as I was around a lot." 
 
Sullivan added, "you cannot let your soldier's feel like you cannot love them. They need to know you respect them."
 
The general then went to a passage he read this out loud for my privilege: "The faith gave you victory at Shiloh and Vicksburg. Also, when you have completed your best preparations, you go into battle without hesitation as at Chattanooga — no doubts, no reserve, and, I tell you that it was this that made us act with confidence. I knew wherever I was that you thought of me and if I got in a tight place you would come, if alive."
 
The letter was dated March 1864 and was sent to General W.T. Sherman from General Grant. 
 
"What that means is that you're going to die trying," said the general. He also told me to read The Soldier's Oath – "That represents the country." I also had the privilege to scan through
"Gordon R. Sullivan, The Collected Works 1991 – 1995," a book that is filled with priceless notes, speeches and personal quotes from the general.
 
There is simply not enough room in to pay the appropriate tribute to Sullivan. His awards, achievements and accolades are immense and here are a few; Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal (2), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. 
 
"I have spent my whole life as an American soldier – if I could do it again, I would. All of our veterans old and young, they took an oath to defend the United States of America. That means a lot to me," he said. 
 
From my time with General Sullivan I can tell that he was never a "desk" general. His love and passion was being with his troops. You will not find more of a regular gentleman. 
 
Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, America thanks you for your service to our great country, sir.
 
Veteran Spotlight is a special column by Wayne Soares that will run twice a month. Soares is a motivational speaker and comedian who has frequently entertained the troops overseas with the USO. To recommend a veteran for Soares' column, write to waynesoares1@gmail.com.

 

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Massachusetts Moves Into Phase 3; Gyms, Museums Can Open

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
BOSTON — Fitness centers, movie theaters, museums and other enclosed venues will be able to reopen on Monday with restrictions and the number of people allowed in an indoor gathering is now raised to 25. 
 
"We know that COVID-19 won't be taking any time off this summer. And we need to maintain vigilance if we wish to continue to move forward," Gov. Charlie Baker said at Thursday's announcement. "Today the public health data makes clear that Massachusetts is effectively bringing the fight to the virus as we've reopened. And thanks to all your efforts, Phase 3 will begin here in Massachusetts on Monday, July 6."
 
Dubbed "Vigilant," this next two-step phase will still require basic protocols of sanitation, social distancing and face coverings. Boston will have to wait one more week to enter this phase. 
 
"Phase 3 contains some bigger players that will draw more people into indoor settings, with respect to various activities like movie theaters and museums. Medical evidence continues to say that COVID has a much higher risk of spreading indoors and enclosed spaces, than it does in outdoor spaces," the governor continued. "This phase will last significantly longer than the other phases so that we can closely monitor the impact to our public health data."
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