As news of his death in Iraq spread among the people who knew him back home, Stephen Eric Sullivan of Westborough was remembered yesterday as a selfless public servant.
Sullivan, 40, a diplomatic security agent with the State Department who spent parts of his life working with children with special needs, died in a car bomb explosion Monday in Mosul.
Three private security agents in Sullivan's convoy were also killed in the attack as they ran what State Department officials said was a ''protective detail" escorting a motorcade leaving the regional US Embassy in Mosul. He was killed when a car laden with explosives ran into his armored vehicle. Two other private security guards in two accompanying vehicles were injured.
Sullivan, stationed in Baghdad, was on temporary assignment as acting regional security officer in Mosul in northern Iraq. He had been in Iraq for three weeks after he volunteered to spend eight months in Afghanistan.
''He really loved his job and believed in what he was doing," said his mother, Diane, of Westborough.
His mother, along with his father, Robert, and two sisters in Waltham and Hopedale declined to comment further. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Sullivan was a 1983 graduate of Westborough High School, where he played football and baseball. His former football and junior varsity baseball coach, Jan D. Gebo, was calling former teammates yesterday. He remembered Sullivan as ''very quiet and goal-oriented."
''I was always proud of him," he said. ''It's not any surprise to me that he chose to enter the military. He exemplifies what a real hero is all about."
After entering the military and then the State Department, ''he didn't make it home as often as we'd wished," Gebo said. ''But nobody's forgotten about him."
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Sullivan's death ''a tragic loss" for the department. ''Steve was a brave American, dedicated to his country and to a brighter future for the people of Iraq," she said.
Sullivan was the oldest of three children. He joined the Marine Corps the same year he graduated from high school, and he served as a field radio operator. Following his military service, he worked as a residential adviser to children with special needs at the Devereux Foundation in Rutland, Mass.
In 1992, he earned his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Westfield State College. A year later, he joined the US Navy as a hospital corpsman, becoming an emergency medical technician. He served as an assistant to the head of internal medicine at San Diego's Naval Medical Center.
He earned a master's degree in forensic science from National University in La Jolla, Calif., in 2000. Two years later, he joined diplomatic security at the State Department, where he first worked in the Miami field office.
He volunteered to go to Afghanistan in 2004 and received an award for his work as a lead advance agent for protective details during the country's presidential election. The award also recognized his efforts as a shift leader during the inauguration of Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, according to a State Department biography.
Sullivan also earned the department's Extra Mile award in 2004 for his role in following two career criminals across six states and catching them.