For National Volunteer Week, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Corps Veteran Tim Sullivan, who served as an aircraft munitions specialist during the Cold War.
Tim Sullivan was born in April 1943 in Denver, Colorado. After graduating from high school, Sullivan enlisted in the Marine Corps for the opportunity to travel the world. He completed basic training in San Diego, followed by advanced training to become an aircraft munitions specialist. Afterward, he was assigned to the 2nd Marine Air Wing at Beaufort, South Carolina. In 1962, Sullivan deployed to Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico amid the Cuban Missile Crisis. He remained there until the crisis ended, then returned to Beaufort, where he served until 1963.
In 1963, Sullivan was anxious for a life beyond the Marine Corps. He separated from the service and returned to his hometown, where he found a job as a short-order cook. After a year, he was dissatisfied. During this time, his father asked him to work at a wholesale optical store and laboratory. Father and son worked together for the next 14 years. During this time, he met his wife-to-be on a blind date and married several months later. They went on to have two boys and two girls. When his father retired, the younger Sullivan assumed control of the company.
In the mid-1970s, Sullivan sold his laboratory after realizing he could not follow the industry’s transition from glass lenses to plastic lenses. Later, he became a trainer for an optical equipment manufacturing company and traveled across the western U.S., training others to use optical equipment. He did this while also operating his optical store with his wife back in Denver.
Eventually, Sullivan decided to retire to Denver. However, he still wanted to work as an optician and help others. He then found a job in an optical shop at the Denver VA Medical Center and the opportunity to help many disadvantaged Veterans. With the guidance of another Veteran who worked as an optician, Sullivan was able to begin volunteer work as an optician in May 2013. After his partner retired, Sullivan assumed his position.
To date, Sullivan has volunteered 4,900 hours at the Denver VA Medical Center. On Wednesdays, he is ready to help anyone with glasses by 6 a.m. As the day progresses, he makes rounds to the outpatient clinic and the inpatient wards. Often, the volunteer office would receive a call from a nurse or a ward clerk to verify if Sullivan was on time or running late because there would be several patients who needed his assistance with glasses. Some Veterans even arrange their medical appointments around Sullivan’s schedule to have their glasses cleaned and adjusted. In 2020, Sullivan provided glasses, frames and services totaling over $36,000 and has neither charged nor accepted any payment, ever. As Sullivan says, “I just want to help Veterans.” He also volunteers with the Community Living Center for Veterans, the Arrada Apex Community Senior Center and other nursing homes, as well.
We honor his service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Raymond Lin
Editors: Annabelle Colton, Theresa Lyon
Researcher: David Charles Deprez
Graphic Designer: Yasmine Pierce