Veterans event features Sullivan descendant
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com November 7, 2013 6:54PM
Updated: December 9, 2013 11:00AM
Kelly Sullivan Loughren is the granddaughter of Albert Sullivan, one of the famed five brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, who died after their ship was sunk during World War II, a legacy that has not been forgotten.
Loughren, 41, talked about that famous tragedy to a large crowd Thursday at St. Linus Church in Oak Lawn during the ninth annual veterans ceremony.
She shared her admiration for veterans and took the time to read from a letter written by her great-grandmother, Alleta Sullivan, in January 1943, asking the Navy if indeed the rumors were true that her five sons were dead. Two months after they were missing in action and presumed dead, she still did not know.
“The part where she writes ‘I hate to bother you,’ that part makes me cry every time,” Loughren said later during a reception at the school’s Cardiff Center.
Her voice cracked a few times when she was reading the letter to the hushed church.
Loughren, the guest speaker at the event, is a third-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She has had ties to St. Linus since a fifth-grade class reached out to her last year after learning about the five Sullivan brothers from their principal, Mike Stritch.
She was happy to make the journey to Oak Lawn to tell the Sullivans’ story and to urge those in attendance to always treat veterans with the respect they deserve.
“I feel blessed to be able to come here. My favorite part is meeting the veterans,” said Loughren, who lives in the hometown of her famous relatives.
The entire student body of St. Linus was in the church, along with relatives of 51 veterans who were honored, plus community members and parishioners.
Loughren talked of the Sullivans’ dogged determination to serve on the same ship. Eldest brother George, 27, wrote a letter asking the Navy to bend its rules forbidding that.
Albert wasn’t going to enlist but did because he was so close to his four older brothers, Loughren said.
“The Sullivans didn’t sacrifice more than any other family. You can’t compare a mother who loses one child to my great-grandmother who lost five. They are equal,” she said.
A ship named for the brothers, the USS The Sullivans, is on duty in the Persian Gulf, she said.
After she talked of her famous relatives, Loughren gave the students a homework assignment that she said would last the rest of their lives: She urged them to thank every veteran they meet in their lives.
“Tell them, ‘Thank you for serving our country,’ ” Loughren said.
The message wasn’t lost on 10-year-old Kailyn Loch, of Oak Lawn, a fifth-grader at the school.
“I liked the ceremony a lot because it was very touching and I’m happy all the veterans could come,” Kailyn said.
Her grandfather, Ed Loch, 76, of Hickory Hills, was one of the 51 honored during the ceremony. Loch served in the Navy from 1955 to 1964. He didn’t see any action, save the Chinese now and then firing at his ship, he said.
Melvin Jefferson, who lives near 87th Street and Western Avenue on Chicago’s Southwest Side, was in the thick of things as a Marine in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” Jefferson said when asked about the large Marine logo on the back of his well-worn denim jacket.
Jefferson said he appreciated the ceremony, which he learned about from friend Bill Stritch, an Army veteran and the brother of Mike Stritch.
Asked about his years in Vietnam, Jefferson didn’t have much to say.
“There were good times and bad times,” Jefferson, 70, said. “I really don’t like to talk about it too much. Bad memories.”