A veteran from the 'Forgotten War' is about to be remembered and honored in a big way. The 83-year-old left high school to join the Navy, then got shipped to Korea. Now more than 60 years later, he's finally going to graduate.
Marty Sullivan proudly wears a veteran hat and shows off a tattoo marking the start of his military duty. He vividly recalls being a young, strapping 18-year-old sailor being shipped off to war.
"You come of boot camp and you're invincible. You're part of the American armed forces, the best in the world. That doesn't make you bullet proof," said Sullivan.
He served as a fire control technician--the guy ordering when guns were fired aboard the USS Strong. While at sea, Marty lost close friends and shipmates. And eventually, he came home to a country, even a family, that didn't acknowledge his service in the so-called "Forgotten War."
"My father said to his mother, who raised me, said 'What are you so upset about? He wasn't even in a war. People didn't even die.' We had over 38,000 die in Korea. And I got this idiot sitting next to me telling me nobody died. And it just got me the wrong way," said Sullivan.
Back home, Marty worked blue collar jobs in Boston for 30 years and raised a family before retiring to Florida. But he's always regretted never getting a high school diploma.
"I got to travel around the world twice, and that's a hell of a lot. But yeah, I missed it," said Sullivan.
Through his volunteer work at the Veterans Memorial Park & Museum in Brandon, he learned that a diploma wasn't out of reach, even at age 83. Thanks to an honorable discharge from active military service, his missed classes were forgiven.
Next week, he'll get to don a cap and gown and graduate alongside 600 other students at Newsome High School.
"I've had that 'Oh you're going to be a dummy all your life you don't even have a high school diploma'. Can't say that anymore now!" said Sullivan.
He's now hoping his experience will inspire other vets, or anyone without a diploma, to go for it before it's too late.
"Enjoy life. That's the whole thing," said Sullivan.
For information on a diploma or other military benefits contact Hillsborough County Consumer &Veterans Services at 813-635-8316 or HCFLGov.net/Veterans