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Andrew "Andy" O'Sullivan recalls that in 1965 the military was building their numbers for the Vietnam Campaign. He was in his junior year of college and knew that some of his classmates were getting draft notices. He had planned to take a break from school to make money to finish his degree but instead chose to sign up with the Marines. When he was drafted later that year, he did not have to go right away. With his commitment to the Marine Corps he was able to finish college and then attend officer candidate school.
After graduating on May 31, 1968, Andy's life took the fast track when he was married to the love of his life, "Bunny" Habib, on June 1. The O'Sullivan wedding was quite an attraction. There were lots of people there to see the arch of swords ceremony. This ceremony is an old English and American custom which gives a symbolic pledge of loyalty to the newly married couple from their Marine family, and is authorized for commissioned, warrant, staff noncommissioned officers, and noncommissioned officers only. Only the newly married couple is allowed to pass under the arch. The ushers normally form the sword detail; however, other officers, warrant or staff noncommissioned officers may be designated as needed. Customarily, six or eight members take part in the ceremony. The ushers form at the bottom of the chapel steps, in two equal ranks, at normal interval, facing each other, with sufficient room between ranks (3 to 4 paces) for the bride and groom to pass. The senior usher is positioned in the left rank furthest from the chapel exit. With the command “Officers, Draw Swords,” swords are drawn from their scabbards in one continuous motion, rising gracefully to touch the tip of the opposite sword. Then, at “Invert Swords” there is a quick turning of the wrist so that the cutting edge is up.(Source: Marine Corps Drill and Ceremonies Manual)
The newlyweds honeymooned in Las Vegas and returned to Oklahoma Fort Sill for Andy's artillery training. Andy attended Vietnam Infantry School and was trained with MOS-08 artillery. As an infantry officer and artillery officer, Andy was in a leadership position and was sent to the northwestern section of South Vietnam, a mountainous area, in September 1968.
Andy landed by helicopter at LZ Argonne on March 20, 1969 under direct fire. He acquired a shrapnel injury to the foot, cutting through his boot, but refused medical export to stay with his men. During the day, helicopters were visible targets, but at night FC-47 flare ships, often called Spooky or Puff The Magic Dragon, protected the landing zone by lighting the area. The next morning, Andy's upper chest received scrap metal from an explosion when his Lt. Colonel Sergeant was hit by a mortar round.
On Andy's third day in battle, he crossed paths with David Ovist, his radio operator, as they ran for cover. While hunkered down in his hole, Andy was hit with shrapnel in his back. Sadly, David was mortally wounded. This could have been Andy if they had each run to the closest hole.
As the wounded waited for medical evacuation, Andy continued fighting to hold the landing zone. He was awarded a Silver Star medal for his brave actions, but says, "That is what I was supposed to do. Marines lay down their lives for each other. A silver medal doesn't mean much, considering the loss of my comrades."
That is what I was supposed to do. Marines lay down their lives for each other. A silver medal doesn't mean much, considering the loss of my comrades.
Andy was able to take R and R and spend time with Bunny in Hawaii at the end of May 1969. She was very glad to see him alive and in one piece. Holding the home front and waiting for news was a stressful time. When Andy was in the field, Bunny sent cookies and gloves--protection from the cutting edge of elephant grass--every week. Somehow the packages always came through. Back in Hawaii, when news media picked up stories about the LZ Argonne operation, Bunny rushed to show her in-laws pictures and video of Andy in Hawaii with her to prove that he was okay. Andy's dad noticed that his son had developed a limp but was relieved knowing he was now safe from the dangers he had faced.
When Andy's Vietnam commitment was over he had a plane ticket to fly straight home; but, he was selected to take a group of Marines home by ship. This delayed his expected arrival by another month. At that time there was no debriefing between Vietnam and home base so the delay turned out to be for the good. This gave Andy a chance to feel more at ease when he saw his family. While on the ship, there were inspections called "junk on a bunk," where Marines had to dump out their bags. War contraband, such as weapons and grenades, had to be thrown overboard. The ship bringing the Marines home was an old, rusty, WWII dock landing ship. It had to be painted before going ashore to look spiffy and reflect the proud military standards of United States Navy. After departure the ship was decommissioned.
When he arrived in San Diego, Andy changed into his travel uniform and took a flight to New Jersey. On the way to the boarding gate, a girl with an anti-war attitude spit on him. Upon boarding the flight the stewardess put Andy and the other Marines in first-class. Arriving in New Jersey late that evening was a blessing since the airport was not so crowded and there were no anti-war demonstrations going on. Bunny met Andy at the airport, and they couldn't find the hotel she had booked so they drove back to Brooklyn. A welcome home celebration was planned with a banner stretched across the street from brownstone to brownstone. The family had to fight to keep the banner up since initially they were told it couldn't be hung without a permit. Andy's dad and father-in-law refused to take down the banner and with permission from "friends in high places," the banner was allowed to stay.
Andy decided not to re-up and taught school in Quantico until January 1971. Soon the O'Sullivans were blessed with their first child, Denise. Bunny worked as an accountant while Andy stayed home to care for the baby. He also did the laundry and had coffee with neighborhood housewives while their spouses were at work. It was hard to find employment as a veteran, but Andy was finally hired as a warehouse manager for Coty Cosmetics and Perfume, a division of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. The Manhattan manufacturing company was operating in an inefficient facility so it was moved to Sanford, NC. This is where Andy stayed employed for the next 30 years. In 2003, Andy and Bunny retired to Ashe County, NC.
When Andy and his fellow veterans returned from Vietnam, Pos-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was not yet a recognized as a condition. Instead, many veterans were diagnosed with post-Vietnam syndrome, which carried a heavy social stigma. Andy recalls that attending military reunions was difficult in the early years. It was emotional to watch war movies. He used to try to suppress his PTSD, but today talking has made it easier to bear. As a Marine and veteran, Andy reflects that his military experiences gave him structure and organizational skills to improve his life. His message for future generations is "Study history, or you are doomed."
Andy's medals include a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with "palm", and the Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with four devices.
Bunny O'Sullivan's Story
Bunny (Habib) O’Sullivan was born in Brooklyn, NY. She was the eldest of three children, raised by two hard-working parents who deeply valued both “faith and family” and instilled these values into the lives of their three children.
“Faith and family” was the foundation upon which Bunny’s character was built. Raised a devout Catholic, her faith was established at an early age when her family attended mass together regularly at Our Lady of Lebanon in Brooklyn, NY. Bunny’s faith would later become her greatest source of strength during the most challenging time of her life.
In June 1962, Bunny had just graduated from high school. It was a typical summer day spent hanging out with friends, when something suddenly caught her eye. It was a shiny, silver, Ford Thunderbird. Young Bunny happened to love Thunderbirds! “I touched that car as if it were pure gold,” she fondly recalls. She was so taken by the car that she paid little attention to the driver, a young man by the name of Andy O’Sullivan. Andy asked Bunny if she wanted to go for a quick ride around the corner.
“The ride around the corner turned into a ride a mile or so from my home! I threatened to jump out of the car if Andy didn’t take me home immediately.”
Andy abided by her wishes and returned Bunny safely home. Once the excitement of their little jaunt wore off, Bunny took notice of Andy for the first time. “When I finally looked at him, I thought, wow! This guy’s gorgeous!” This experience marks the beginning of what would become 52 years of marriage to the man Bunny describes as “the love of my life.”
Bunny and Andy’s first date was a double date with a rather interesting twist. “Andy was with a girl he was dating at the time, and I was with a guy I was dating.” Throughout the evening it became evident that there was a special connection between Andy and Bunny. “We flirted with each other the whole evening,” she shares.
The couple began spending more and more time together that summer, mostly sitting on the stoop of her family’s brownstone talking for hours on end. “Our relationship was friendship first,” Bunny says.
One special memory in particular stands out to Bunny. The young couple found a rock one afternoon, and they playfully kicked it around the neighborhood while out on a leisurely stroll. A simple rock forged an even deeper connection between the two of them that summer. To this day Bunny still keeps ‘their rock’ among her most cherished possessions. Bunny wore that rock around her neck for extended periods of time as a meaningful reminder of the bond she and Andy shared.
In June 1965, Andy made the decision to join the Marines; and while time apart from each other was difficult, Bunny fully supported Andy’s decision to serve his country. In December 1967, while home for Christmas, Andy approached Bunny with a rather unexpected proposal. “This is terrible, I can’t stand being away from you, let’s get married!” Bunny accepted Andy’s proposal and the couple made plans to marry after Andy completed ‘The Basic School’.
The couple married on June 1, 1968. They had a small, intimate wedding surrounded by family and close friends. The wedding, although small, was deeply meaningful. Andy was married in uniform and military cross swords were part of their ceremony.
That evening, the newlyweds returned home, quickly changed their clothes and set off to Quantico, a US Marine Corps Base near Triangle, Virginia, where Andy would continue his training. Bunny and Andy then relocated to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where Andy was to complete artillery training, his ‘Military Occupation Specialty’ (M.O.S.). Before Andy started training the couple slipped off to Las Vegas for a week for their honeymoon. They remained in Fort Sill from June 1968 until September of the same year.
After Andy’s training was complete, the couple returned home so Andy could say goodbye to his family before leaving for Vietnam. Bunny describes saying goodbye to Andy as “one of the most difficult moments of my life.” After Andy left for Vietnam, Bunny moved back home with her parents for comfort and support. “I refused to watch the evening news while Andy was in Vietnam. Seeing reporters out in the field showing footage of young men who were wounded and killed was just too hard,” she recalls. “If anything happened to Andy I knew I’d receive a letter, and as long as I received letters from him regularly I knew he was ok.”
Bunny busied herself while Andy was away working for Eastman Dillon in NYC as a tax preparer. She worked long hours, well into the night. “It kept my mind busy; I just consumed myself with work.” She also attended Mass regularly which strengthened her faith and offered comfort.
While Andy was off fighting in the war Bunny found comfort in her faith. “My greatest sources of comfort were God and St. Anthony, the Patron Saint of Lost Things. I prayed regularly to Saint Anthony to help Andy find his way back home. I just wanted him home alive.”
Some of the greatest challenges Bunny faced while Andy was serving in Vietnam were the goodbyes at the end of Andy’s R and R’s and the holidays spent without him. “Holidays apart from each other were very difficult, especially Christmas which always meant so much to my family.”
Although Bunny faced many personal challenges during this time, there were fond memories as well. In one of Andy’s letters he made two requests: a pair of gloves and some of her chocolate chip cookies. “I sent off the gloves and dozens of cookies in a big package often.” When the cookies arrived, Andy shared them with his fellow Marines on the battlefield, offering a “taste of home” to the battle weary men. Bunny was thrilled that she could help in some small way.
Bunny attributes her strength during this difficult time to her faith in God and fervent prayer. Her prayers were finally answered when she received word that Andy was coming home! “I was so, so, so thrilled to get word that he was coming home!” Andy returned home on a 'BGB’ (Big Grey Boat) in November 1969, just in time for the holidays. Bunny was at the airport to greet him. “I never wanted to let him go.”
About his service, Bunny says, “I’m so proud of Andy. I’m proud that he believed in our country and felt so strongly about it that he went to Vietnam to protect people he didn't even know.”
Bunny goes on to share some of the most meaningful lessons learned as a wife on the home front during the Vietnam war. “I discovered how little control we actually have over our fate. I like to try and organize my life and have everything in order as far as what I’m going to do today, tomorrow, and next month; and I just prayed hard for God to bring him back. I was so worried about him dying. I had no control at all.” She goes on to say, “I think the other things are: you become more humble in dealing with people, especially those spouses waiting at home during current conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. I truly related to them and their situations.”
Bunny and Andy went on to have two children, a daughter, Denise, and a son, Michael. They have four grandchildren: Declan, Aidan, Sophia, and Patrick. The couple celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary this past June, surrounded by family and friends. They live in West Jefferson, NC and enjoy motorbiking.
Bunny’s story is one of perseverance, strength, and dedication—to her husband, her family, and her country.