One was a battered combat veteran with a Purple Heart. Another was a fresh recruit with an interest in history. They were two of the four U.S. Marines killed Thursday when a gunman opened fire on two military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, from Springfield, Massachusetts, had been in the Marines for 18 years, according to his Facebook page. Lance Cpl. Squire Kimpton Paul Wells, 21, of Marietta, Georgia, known as Skip, had recently joined up.
The Defense Department has not confirmed the identities of either Marine, but family members and friends disclosed the deaths of Sullivan and Wells. The identities of the other two people killed in the shooting have still not been released.
Sullivan's family told The Republican, a newspaper in Springfield, that he had deployed twice to Iraq and was in the battle in Abu Ghraib in 2005. He was awarded a Combat Action Ribbon and a Purple Heart, his family said.
On Thursday night, a bar called Nathan Bill's, which is owned by Sullivan's brother, Joe, posted a series of photographs of Sullivan on its Facebook page. Some showed him wearing military fatigues, and one appeared to be a multigenerational family photograph.
"Anyone who went to Holy Cross School, Cathedral High School or grew up in the East Forest Park knew who Tommy was," the Facebook post said. "He was our hero and he will never be forgotten."
"Thank you Tommy," it continued, "for protecting us."
Cathedral High School said Sullivan graduated in 1994.
Wells joined the Marines about two years ago, a friend, Lindsey Pittman, said in a phone interview Friday.
Pittman, who said she had grown up with Wells, said he had been in the Marine Reserve and had arrived in Chattanooga on Sunday for a two-week training. Pittman said she had been notified of the death by Wells' mother. The two women were in contact during Thursday's shootings, Pittman said, and his mother learned later that day that Wells had been killed.
"He was very protective over everyone that he loved," Pittman said. "That transferred to his job: Serve and protect."
Wells had wanted to join the Marines since he was a junior at Sprayberry High School, his friends said.
"It was really important to him," Dominique Petty said in a phone interview.
Petty played clarinet with Wells in the school marching band and later joined Junior ROTC with him.
"His grandfather was in the military, and he really admired him, and wanted to follow in his footsteps," Petty said.
He described Wells as a fun-loving, popular student who once single-handedly coaxed the crowd to do the wave at a school football game.
Matt Lawson, who said he had been Wells' youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Woodstock in Georgia, described him as a kind person who had played clarinet in the church orchestra and who spoke often of joining the Marines.
"He had been preparing for military life for a while and looked forward to it," Lawson said. "He looked at his time with the Marines as not just an option he had as opposed to some other job. He really felt like it was a calling."
After high school, Wells briefly attended Georgia Southern University, then joined the Marines, a family spokesman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He trained in artillery, his Facebook page said. At the same time, he became interested in Civil War re-enactment and joined a cannon crew at Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park, dressing in period clothing and sleeping on the ground, huddled by a fire near his cannon. Wells had an inquisitive nature that earned him the nickname "Squirrel" on the crew.
"The crew here loved talking to Skip about the similar aspects of both 19th-century and 21st-century artillery," said Caleb Wheeler, an Iraq War veteran who was in his crew. "I loved Skip as a little brother, as all of our crew did."
He said friends were planning to raise a glass to toast their brother.
"He was the best among us," Wheeler said. "He died with his boots on. And there will be forever a void in my life."