Retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan Laid to Rest

Retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan Laid to Rest

soldiers holding a casket
Photo by: U.S. Army/Elizabeth Fraser

Retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, the 32nd Army chief of staff and former president and CEO of the Association of the U.S. Army, was laid to rest May 10 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sullivan died Jan. 2. He was 86.

Speaking during the service in Memorial Chapel at Fort Myer, Virginia, Mark Sullivan summed up his father in three words: “Great American soldier.”

“That’s what he was,” Mark Sullivan said. “If you take it all away—the rank, the awards—what we have is the heart and soul of a great citizen, a great servant, a great soldier.”

A native of Boston who grew up in nearby Quincy, Massachusetts, Gordon Sullivan graduated from Norwich University and was commissioned a second lieutenant of armor in 1959. During his Army career, he served two combat tours in Vietnam and in the United States, Korea and Germany. He commanded the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, was assistant commandant of the Armor School and deputy commandant of the Command and General Staff College. He later was deputy Army chief of staff for operations and plans, G-3, and Army vice chief of staff before becoming the Army chief of staff in 1991.

During his tenure as the Army’s top general, he is credited with keeping the Army trained and ready and opening the door to information-age technologies. He also always kept his focus on taking care of soldiers. He retired from the Army in July 1995 after more than 36 years of service.

“It’s daunting … to try to speak of a man whose life is so extraordinary,” retired Maj. Gen. Paul Hurley, who was the Army’s 24th chief of chaplains, said during the service. “It is just overwhelming when you begin to think of Gordon’s life.”

Gordon Sullivan was “totally committed to others, to loving others,” Hurley said.

“He had not changed, this person who was committed to doing what is right, to doing what is true, no matter what,” Hurley said. “He was a man of truth and a man of humility, who knew nothing other than to give of himself to others.”

In 1998, three years after retiring from the Army, Gordon Sullivan joined AUSA as the association’s 18th president, overseeing the association’s transformation into a dynamic, member-based organization that represents soldiers and families and connects America’s Army with the nation it serves.

He would lead the educational nonprofit for 18 years, stepping down in 2016. Later that year, he received the Gen. George Catlett Marshall Medal, AUSA’s highest award, for his lifetime of selfless service to the Army and the nation.

Gordon Sullivan continued to serve by leading the board of the Army Historical Foundation. As chairman, he led the capital campaign to build the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The first and only museum to tell the complete history of the U.S. Army and its soldiers, the museum opened in November 2020.

His father did so many great things—for the Army, for AUSA, for the Army museum and so much more, Mark Sullivan said. “And his legacy … will live on,” he said.

“Dad, your duty is done. You did good,” Mark Sullivan said.