S/A Sullivan pictured behind Dr. Rice, wearing baseball cap.
Remarks at the Memorial Service of Special Agent Stephen Eric Sullivan
Ambassador Richard J. Griffin, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and Director, Office of Foreign Missions
U.S. Department of State
Dean Acheson Auditorium, Washington, DC
January 19, 2006
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are here today to celebrate the life and honor the service of Special Agent Stephen Sullivan. We want to express our gratitude for Stephen’s time among us and to offer consolation to his loved ones: his wonderful parents, Robert and Diane Sullivan, and his sisters, Erin Marie Sullivan and Shauna Oliveri, his Diplomatic Security family, and his other friends and colleagues. This is a time of sadness, but also a time for our admiration for a life well lived.
Stephen was a great patriot, a great friend, and a great protector of those in need. He loved the United States and dedicated his life to serving his country. He was a U.S. Marine and a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman. He also spent many years working with children with special needs and those who were at risk.
In all of his life, however, his family and friends agree that his proudest moment was when he became a special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service. It was a high point for him and one of his family’s proudest moments, as well.
Stephen had always wanted to be in law enforcement. His bachelor’s degree was in criminal justice, and his master’s was in forensic science, so when he finally earned his badge and became a special agent, he was thrilled.
As his father said, he finally found a career in which he truly loved what he was doing. Stephen told his friends that he couldn’t believe he was getting paid for being a federal agent and that there was nothing else he would rather do. His only regret was that he hadn’t joined earlier. “I wish we could live twice,” he would say. He wanted to go to every post and see every country in the world.
From the moment he graduated from special agent training, winning one of the top awards in his class, Stephen proved that he was a highly skilled agent. He was physically and mentally tough, a great marksman, and quick on his feet. He was not only intelligent, but possessed great common sense. In Afghanistan, he routinely earned letters of commendation from visiting members of congress and other VIPs whom he protected. And in one of the highest tributes one agent can offer to another, his colleagues said that if they had to go into harm’s way, they would want Stephen watching their backs.
His family is so proud of him. We are, too.
He was the kind of agent his DS colleagues wanted on their team. He was extremely hard working, and highly respected, and there is no doubt, as we reflect on the history of the Diplomatic Security Service, that the man we honor today was one of our bravest and most committed agents.
In a law enforcement organization full of agents who are tough and courageous, Stephen showed an exceptional level of dedication. He selflessly chose two of our most dangerous missions, Afghanistan and Iraq. Stephen understood the risk, but he embraced the challenge. He knew that freedom isn’t free. He knew that our country must stand for freedom, until freedom can stand alone.
He chose Iraq and Afghanistan because he felt that was where he could make the greatest contribution. He even tried to get permission to “re-up” for a second tour in Iraq. Stephen’s family tells us that if he had to do it over, he would go to Iraq again without hesitation.
Stephen Eric Sullivan knew that the America he loved was built on heroism and noble sacrifice.
On September 19, 2005, this American hero – a man who loved his family, loved his friends, and dedicated himself to the cause of freedom – made the noblest sacrifice a human being can make: He laid down his life so that others might live.
Tragically, three other members of the protective detail, brave men like Stephen who worked for Blackwater USA, were killed at the same time. We mourn their loss, for they, too, made the ultimate sacrifice.
It’s rare to find someone as full of life as Stephen Sullivan. And it’s a rare person who would give his life for someone else. Stephen was exactly that person. We, the American people, and especially the men and women of the State Department and DS, owe a deep debt of gratitude to Stephen.
As President Ronald Reagan said of the heroes who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”
Stephen’s death was a great loss for all of us. Yet rather than let it discourage us, let his life and what he believed in strengthen our resolve. To his fellow DS colleagues and to his many State Department friends, I say: Let his patriotic sacrifice be a reminder that what you do every day on the front lines of the global war on terror is courageous and noble and just. To all who mourn him, let us remember Stephen’s life, his laughter, and his bravery. And let us honor his sacrifice by living our lives as he did: with purpose, honor, and dedication to country.
To the Sullivan Family, Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan, Erin, and Shauna, may you take comfort in the realization that Stephen exceeded his wish that he could live twice, for his life is now eternal and he is in the arms of God.
It is now my privilege to make a presentation to Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan.
We have the American flag that flew over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on the day of Stephen’s memorial service in Afghanistan. It is my honor to present this flag to you on behalf of a grateful nation as a token of our appreciation for the honorable and faithful service rendered by your son, Stephen.