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Poster adds to patriotism for St. Linus School

The Rev. Bill Corcoran blesses poster fighting Sullivan brothers World War II fame library where it will be put display

The Rev. Bill Corcoran blesses the poster of the fighting Sullivan brothers of World War II fame in the library where it will be put on display at St. Linus School in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Tuesday, May 21, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 14, 2013 10:35AM



A few months after learning about the Fighting Sullivans, of World War II fame, students at St. Linus School in Oak Lawn have a reminder that will greet them in the school library about the Sullivans’ story of sacrifice.

A poster of the five Sullivan brothers, who died tragically aboard the same ship during World War II, and drawings of the two U.S. Navy ships named for them, has been given to the school.

It was sent by Kelly Sullivan, granddaughter of Al Sullivan. She had engaged in a Skype interview from her home in Iowa with the students earlier in the school year because Principal Mike Stritch long has been fascinated by the Sullivans’ story.

The poster, which was blessed Tuesday by St. Linus’ pastor, the Rev. Bill Corcoran, will be posted in the library for all to see. First, it will be on the altar, flanked by flags of the five service branches, for the parishioners to see during Masses said over Memorial Day weekend, Corcoran said.

Three Navy veterans attended a brief discussion about the Sullivans and the military in the library with the fifth-graders who had chatted with Kelly Sullivan, who autographed the poster.

John Walsh, a former parishioner who now lives in Homer Glen, served on the second USS The Sullivans during his 20 years in the Navy. School maintenance man John Kelbowski worked in the engine room of four ships during his 11 years with the Navy. Ken McGuire, of Oak Lawn, was in the Navy during the Korean War.

Each shared stories from their careers with the students.

“It’s an honor we are recognizing our World War II veterans,” Kelbowski said as a DVD of “The Fighting Sullivans” played in a corner of the library.

“I saw the movie when I was a kid,” McGuire said.

The movie was required viewing in Stritch’s home.

“My father wanted us to learn about sacrifice and dedication,” he said.

Walsh recalled being on a ship during the Cold War and they once “chased a Russian sub for two days in the Mediterranean,” he said.

McGuire joined the Navy, he said, “because I didn’t want to be in a ditch in the Army.”

He was 17, had no skills, and was ordered by his father to choose a branch of the service.

Each veteran answered questions from the students about their service.

One girl asked if McGuire was ever afraid when the ship was fired at by the Chinese.

He sometimes was, he said, especially since he was stationed below the waterline and knew a direct hit likely would result in his death.

“If you’re not scared, you’re not in your right mind,” McGuire said. “But you overcome it.”

Asked if men cried on the ship, he said some did if they didn’t receive mail or packages around Christmas.

Ashley Drag, 11, of Oak Lawn, said afterward that she enjoyed hearing the veterans’ stories and that the Sullivans’ story “is kind of sad.”

“Memorial Day is about the soldiers, the people who served and died,” Ashley said.

Billy Martin, 11, of Palos Heights, said it’s hard to imagine he and his two brothers dying on he same ship.

“I’d be sad and mad,” said Billy, who hopes to join the Army “to protect us and help our country.”

Corcoran said the Sullivans’ story is a lesson.

“We learn by example, whether it is heroes like the Sullivans; whether it’s people Catholics call saints, we learn by example,” Corcoran said.



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