Currently Resides: Cary, NC
Hometown: Hampstead, NH
Birthplace: Newton, MA
Served: US Air Force, 2001-2007 (Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring and Horn of Africa)
“Not all injuries are visible…a lot of veterans (diagnosed and undiagnosed) are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and PTSD.” – Kevin Sullivan
Kevin Sullivan was working in Finance in Boston in 2000 when he had a life-changing experience. During a Tall Ships exhibition, he saw a soldier from another nation salute an American solider. He was so moved that he left the corporate world and joined the U.S. Air Force.
He made a similar leap of faith when he signed on to ride in the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea. “I had been quietly living with anxiety/PTSD for years. I haven’t discussed it with anyone, except my wife and parents. The truth is that I felt ashamed for being diagnosed with a disorder and guilty for not being able to continue my military career.”
Kevin decided to tell his story. “War brings on a whole set of unseen injuries that are not talked about. Seeking mental health assistance in the military is viewed as a weakness and the stigma is hard to shake.” He wants to draw attention to the fact that not all war wounds are visible, and that mental health is a real casualty of war.
Before his medical release in 2007, Kevin had an outstanding military record. He flew more than 400 combat sorties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Horn of Africa, earning several Medals. But, in time, he became increasingly short tempered and jumpy. In his eyes, every Iraqi was the enemy; every parked truck hid someone with a gun. During a mission, Kevin suffered a severe panic attack that he was rendered unconscious. The diagnoses: severe PTSD.
Today, thanks to the help of his family and the Air Force/VA medical staff, he feels he has the tools to manage his symptoms. He is studying to become a Physician Assistant, inspired by the aero-medical evacuation flight teams he knew in Iraq. An avid athlete, Kevin is a member of a rowing team, competes in Brazilian Jui Jitsui, and trains in boxing, kick boxing, and mixed martial arts.
An active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Kevin wants to make a difference for wounded veterans. “I consider myself lucky to have my life and limbs.”