Share a special moment from Joe's life.

The obituary

Shared by Terry Cullinan on November 4, 2015

CULLINAN, Joseph L., 32, captain, West Virginia Army National Guard, died Wednesday, May 4, 2011, at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, of cancer. Formerly of Follansbee, he and his wife, Jess, lived in Morgantown.

            He was born December 31, 1978, in Columbus,Ohio.

            Joe was a 1997 graduate of Brooke High School where he was a four-year varsity letterman in soccer; he was an honorable mention All-Valley selection his senior year despite missing most of the season with a broken collar bone.

            He received a bachelor’s degree in 2003 from West Virginia University. He was a Distinguished Military Graduate of the West Virginia Officer Candidate School and was commissioned in 2003.

            For two academic years, 2008 through 2010, he was an assistant professor of military science at WVU.

            Joe served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006-07, where he was pilot-in-command of a UH 60 Blackhawk helicopter, accumulating 540 hours of combat flight time. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Valor for participating in the rescue of five U.S.soldiers.

            In addition to his wife, Joe is survived by his parents, Terry and Susan Cullinan of Follansbee; sister Angela, her husband Nick Barbara and daughter Evelyn of Greenfield, Mass.; sister Elizabeth and daughter Cassidy of Pittsburgh, and brother Patrick, a WV Natural Resources police officer.

            In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to The Sarcoma Foundation of America.    

            Private services for immediate family only will be held at James Funeral Home, Follansbee. A Celebration of Life is scheduled for May 14 at the WV Army National Guard Armory, Wheeling-Ohio County Airport. Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery.

High Flight

Shared by Terry Cullinan on August 15, 2014

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth.
And danced the skies on wings,
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence.


“High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee Jr., an American aviator who died as a result of a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire during World War II. He was 19.

From Jess, January 2013

Shared by Terry Cullinan on August 12, 2014

I wanted to share a Facebook message I got from Ben Parrish, a member of Joe’s unit:

Hey, I wanted to tell both you and JP, but I’ll just tell you first.

Monday night marked my long-time friend’s 21st birthday, so I took her to Mutts. While there, I was instantly picked out for my short haircut
by a guy who just got back fromAfghanistan and went to school here. He asked what I did, so I told him and began to brag about aviation. He then mentioned that he would like to maybe go to flight school. I told him about the state’s shortage of warrant officers and encouraged him to drop a warrant packet.

He then told me the first time he heard about aviation was from this really loud 1st LT at an ROTC recruiting deal. He said he almost joined aviation just because of how cool this guy was, and he said “this guy just seemed to glow when he talked about it; it was totally obvious he loved it.”

 I then brought out my phone and showed him the picture from Joe’s memorial and asked, “Was it this guy?”

The guy sits back in his chair and sighs, “Yeah, that’s the guy. He was one of the neatest people I’ve ever met.”

We bought a round of Jameson and toasted in Joe’s honor. Just wanted to tell you that I am still running into people who speak nothing but
high praises of him. He touched so many peoples’ lives.

Arlington National Cemetery

Shared by Terry Cullinan on May 26, 2014

Joe's services on August 22, 2011, filmed by his cousin Toni.

Arlington National Cemetery

Shared by Terry Cullinan on May 26, 2014

These photos from Joe's service at Arlington on August 22, 2011, were taken by his cousin Toni.

A Year of Living Dangerously: Joe's e-mails from Iraq

Shared by Terry Cullinan on May 15, 2014



Thursday, July 20, 2006 1:09 PM

Well, folks, it looks like it is that time, in a few hours I will be leaving the country for a year, but I have a feeling that it will be over before you know it. I will probably be out of reach for the next 3-4 weeks or so until we get everything set up. I am looking forward to hearing from all of you, so until then.

1LT Joseph L. Cullinan

1/150th AVN Assault

Ridge Runners

PS: See you all in summer of ’07, and these parties are going to be twice the size as the going away parties!




July 27, 2006 3:36 AM

Hey everybody, sorry about the mass email but I really haven’t got a lot of time, so this is going to have to do for now.

The flight over here was fine, we actually had a night layover inMainewhich was nice. 1 also got to eat someMainelobster!!!Germanywas kind of dull. We arrived there at around 2 a.m. and they took us to a separate terminal, so 1 really didn’t get to see anything. The flight toKuwaitwas neat. We flew across the whole country ofIraq; it looked rather peaceful from 35,000ft.Anyhow, a few of us are here at the port, waiting for our aircraft to show up. Apparently, the boat that they are on is about 3 days late – which we didn’t find out until after we arrived here, so it looks like we are going to be at port for some time. It wouldn’t be so bad if the a/c in our tent worked well and it wasn’t going to be 122 degrees today – make that everyday! Well, gotta’ go, I will try and write again soon.




Thursday, August 10, 2006 6:01 AM

I know that some of you may have heard about a Blackhawk going down; don’t worry, it wasn’t anybody from our task force, just wanted to settle any concerns.




Monday, August 14, 2006 8:21 AM

From 1SG Johnson

All have arrived safe inIraq. The flight crews were extremely tired when they arrived. All the buildings have a/c. All personnel have a mattress to sleep on. The beds vary from cot to manmade beds to store-bought beds. We will be working to improve the living conditions as fast as we can. Most people are pleased with their conditions, will improve on the others.



Tuesday, August 29, 2006 1:48 PM (to Beth)

Yeah, all of that sounds like a good time, I def want to do the mt. biking – I think that would be a blast, plus a great way to stay in shape – kayaking as well, and my future Subaru Legacy will def be the vehicle to get me to all of those places. As for this “rush” thing you are talking about, I am pretty sure flying a ’Hawk in formation at l40 knots (161 mph) and 50 ft off the ground paralleling cities where there are a bunch of people who want to kill me – yeah, don’t think any of the sh** you are doing is going to compare.

No, you don’t get a (Ridge Runner unit) patch until I get a package. Talk to you later.




Thursday, August 31, 2006 4:55 PM

A message to military families from Joe’s commanding officer, Major Larry Graham

We are on Continuous Operating Base (COB) Speicher. It is just outside of Tikrit (Saddam Husseins’ boyhood home). We are all doing well and flying every day and night. We took over the mission from the 101st airborne. We are part of the 25th Infantry Division fromHawaii. We were added to one of their Assault Aviation Battalions that also fly Blackhawks. I can’t divulge where we are flying or what missions we are conducting.

It is still near 120 degrees every day, but we are acclimated as much as possible.

We drink a lot of water and sweat it out all day. We wear our flight suits, gloves, helmets, bullet-proof vests and survival vests on every flight, and it is very hot. We took the side windows out of the pilots’ doors and the cargo doors in the back to get some air circulation. That helps a little, but the dust rolls inside the helicopter every time we land. We have had several days of dust storms. One looked like the scene in the movie “The Mummy.” Several of us have pictures of that.

We are living in CHUs (containerized housing units) that are about 10 ft wide by 20 ft long. We have two or three guys perCHU. They aren’t too bad. They all have air conditioning. We have a Morale Welfare and Recreation Center where we can make phone calls, check out DVDs, play ping pong, pool etc. We also have a small gym where we can exercise. We don’t have a lot of spare time to use all those things, but they are nice when we get the chance.

Everyone works a 12- to 14-hour day, and if they are lucky, they may get a day off every other week. A lot of our folks haven’t had a day off since we arrived inKuwait. But the days go by quickly.




Friday, September 15, 2006 9:21 AM

Subject: Updates, or shall I say same old, or just par, nothing really to report

Well, as you have probably guessed, things have been a little busy lately.

I am sorry I haven’t been able to email anybody lately – it has been a combination of work and of our Internet service (We have some Internet service from an Italian-based company, and let’s just say that they are better cooks than they are Internet geeks, which I guess in a normal situation is good.).

Well, I would love to tell you what I have been doing but most of it is classified; but to give you a little idea, for the past week and a half I have been an Investigating Officer for a 15-6 Investigation. I can’t get into what it was about but I can tell you that it involved quite a few people (all of whom I had to go find/interview) and a lot of specialists (and no, not the rank Specialist E-4, but people who actually specialize in

things), and I don’t know how but nobody got killed.

With that being said, if any of you should find yourself inIraq, watch where you go, things tend to go BOOM!!! around here.

This investigation was a total pain in the ass, especially when you are trying to track down people and it is 120 degrees outside.

I have been flying this week, which has been a lot of fun, especially when we went intoBaghdadthe other day. Sorry, can’t really talk about that either, but it was definitely interesting, and Beth, your little journeys through the forest on your little mountain bike with your little helmet on so you can get your so-called “rush!” have nothing on this! I was part of a hunting team today, can’t tell you what that is but I am sure you get the idea .... that almost got Real exciting today!!

Anyhow, to Angie and Nick and Evelyn, congratulations, I am sure all of you are really happy!! (Evelyn was born on Sept. 6, 2006.)

I will get a chance to respond to all of your emails soon, I hope.

Talk to you later.



Wednesday, October 04, 2006 3:18 PM

OK, here is my itinerary: We are leaving Kuwait tomorrow at 21:45 (which I think is about 1:45 p.m. your time), still not sure if we are stopping in Germany or Ireland – we will see – doesn’t really matter though, all we do is sit in a terminal – not even the main terminal, it is a separate one for military only – which translates into “sucks.”

I should be arriving inAtlanta061130SEP06 (that is Friday) then get on a flight at 11:30 which should get me intoPittsburghat 13:15 Friday afternoon.

So that is the plan. So it looks like I will be seeing all of you really soon.




OK, I have made it out ofIraq, and apparently we got out of there faster than anybody else has, the only problem now is that I am stuck inKuwaituntil tomorrow evening. Yeah, we got here after NO sleep from the other night thanks to our friendly Iraqi bad guys, but our plane came in on time, we got all of our stuff on it and we took off on time. Then we get here, start doing up our paper work and then they tell us that we are not leaving until tomorrow evening (05 OCT 06). From what I gather, when we fly into the states there will be people there from the USO with cell phones and Internet for us to use; so I will grab a cell and give you girls a call and set up our arrangements. Other than that,Kuwaitis still ****ing hot!! At least we should be able to get some sleep tonight.

Almost there.




Tuesday, November 14, 2006 12:45 AM

Hey everybody. Well, it has been almost a month since I left, and a lot has happened; which is good because it helps time go by faster.

I have a few pictures, the first one is all of us watching the WVU vs.

Louisvillegame. The game came on here live at 3:30 a.m., and everybody was up for it. I have some people who never show up on time for work — but when the game is coming on, everybody is there on time. They will be playing the WVU vs. Pitt game live here as well, around the same time — I imagine everybody will be on time for that game as well. Hopefully we will win that one.

I understand that a lot of you are actually going to that game, and I SO wish that I could be there with you.

The next picture is me and a few new friends patrolling the boarder betweenIraqandIran. It was pretty neat — these guys are crazy. They spoke very little English, but somehow we managed to communicate with them pretty well. They where all really impressed with our helicopters. That second picture of me isn’t me trying to look like a bad ass, all of use took pictures like that because the background isn’tIraq...  itsIran. And that last picture is just us standing next to a Bradley on one of the FOBs (bases). We had to shut down there and wait for some people to have a meeting.

There are a few more pictures that should be coming your way, I hope you all enjoy.

Have a good time.



Tuesday, November 14, 2006 1:01 AM

Hey everybody, here are some more pictures.

The first is a picture I took for an elementary class, the whole class sent me a bunch of pictures they drew, so I got a flag and flew it around in their honor.

This day turned out to be really exciting for us. This mission was supposed to be nothing but a typical battlefield circulation (i.e. we just fly people around to different bases). The mission was only supposed to take 3 hours – well, that plan all changed. I can’t really get into detail because everything is still classified, but our 3-hour mission turned into an 8.5-hour mission, I took a bunch of pictures on the flight, but I can’t show you any of those. I can tell you we did a really good thing which probably saved a lot of people’s lives, and everybody who flew the mission with me felt really good about themselves – like they really have accomplished something.

(Joe found a major weapons cache in the dessert probably because he saw people on the ground where there shouldn’t have been people. For this, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal.)

The other pictures are from the other day when we had to fly next to the Turkish border. It was beautiful up there; the mountains on the Turkish side were about 12,000 feet high, you could see snow on them from where we were. In the one picture you can see the red Turkish flag flying. That was where the border was; we had to be extremely careful no to fly over the border. It was a great day.

Well, got to go fly, I will talk to you soon.



Thursday, November 23, 2006 9:05 AM

Attachments: Happy Thanksgiving from Iraq.JPG

Well, hello everybody, I hope all of you are well on this Thanksgiving Day. Things are OK here, I was actually able to get my hands on some turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing. Well, got to go, I think I may have a mission today. Talk to you all soon.



Friday, December 01, 2006 6:21 PM

Subject: WVU-Pitt Game Pictures

Hey all, loved the pictures, really wish I could have been there.

Mom, I sent your flag out today, so hopefully you’ll get it before the Christmas break. Also, there will be a package arriving at the house in a couple of days – if you could just mail it straight to me.

Things are going pretty well over here. Our Christmas tree count is up to 7 now – mom, you’ll be happy to know that you were the first one to send a Christmas tree. Our 1SG also informed us that we have over 60 boxes being sent to us from our FRG (Family Readiness Group), which means that this could be the most I have ever gotten for Christmas!!!

Well, gotta’ go, love you all


PS: Tell the guy who is holding the beer bong to stay away from my cake!!! (A reference to one of the WVU-Pitt pictures)



Monday, December 04, 2006 4:20 PM

Subject: Christmas ’06 List

OK, given my current location it is kind of hard to coordinate with all of you on buying gifts, so I am going to have to kind of spoil the surprise:

So far the gift giving breaks down like this:

• Patrick – iPod, its only the 2G one, but you can trade it in for another


• Beth – New pots and pans, it is what you need, you can pay for your

extreme sports by yourself.

• Cassidy – Gift card to the Gap

• Mom – Home theater system with DVD player

• Dad – Not real sure what to get you, so I ordered a WVU flag which I am

going to fly overIraqwhen they play in their bowl game, so yours is going to be late

Still need to get Angie, Nick and Evelyn something — need some direction, and I recommend you do, because Christmas is looking pretty good for everybody else this year.

• Angie – I am looking at getting you a gift certificate to that spa near

you, but they don’t have a website, so....

• Nick – Again, not sure what you need, so unless told otherwise, it looks

like golf stuff again for you.

• Evelyn – Yeah, no clue there....??

Klaus (Beth’s dog) isn’t getting anything from me, this year or any year; he bit me – so he is out for life!

If you don’t like what I got you – tough! You can exchange it when you get it.



Monday, December 11, 2006 4:57 PM

Hey, Beth – also, there are those certificates that I got from OCS. I graduated second in the class, but I can’t remember what they called it. I did have an old resume, the one I used for Andy, if any of you can find that, that would be great – send that!! But still look for the three-ring binder.

Beth, I got your package, thanks for the cigars – they are good ones. You sent the coffee, but I don’t have a grinder here. I think there are a couple of guys here with one so I will have to borrow it.



Monday, March 05, 2007 1:16 PM

Hey, yeah, I use my debit card alot here, so mom is going to have to get that activated real soon!! And then get it out to me.

Lets see, a helo update: Well, the other day we were on a stand-by mission sitting around our CP and we got a call to go pick up a SKT (scout/sniper kill team) that had been compromised and they were coming under fire – they were basically pinned down. So we got spun up and went flying straight into some serious bad guy country; flew right into the middle of town, dropped in and picked them up – then got the hell out of there.

Not sure you want to tell that story to everybody, but it was a pretty good mission. We landed at a nearby base and dropped them off, then the colonel who ran that base wanted us to come in so he could present all of us with a coin. So that was a fun day. But, other than that, everything here has been rather slow.

            (Two helicopters went on this mission; all eight soldiers on them were awarded the Army Commendation Medal for valor.)




Friday, March 16, 2007 6:20 PM (response to Beth)

Yes, received all today. Thanks for the box, we watched “Trading

Places” today, everybody loved it. Candy is great and those chocolate covered

coffee beans are great! The Italians have turned on our Internet, so everyone is really, really happy – which is great. Got the stuff from the CCD class. Not sure what I should do about it all, please advise.

Hey, how was your trip to NYC?



Sunday, May 27, 2007 6:05 PM

Not sure if all of you guys knew this, but NIN (that’s Nine Inch Nails... if you weren’t tracking) anyhow, they (well, Trent Reznor) have a new CD out, and it is pretty much bad ass. I got it today, love it.

Also, today I got to play soccer with a bunch of Iraqi kids. It was pretty fun; kind of hard, though, in a flight suite.

Oh yeah, I also got the JT (that’s Justin Timberlake) CD. Yeah, that one is pretty good, too. What does that say about me ... yeah, I bought it!!!!!

What’da ya’ gotta’ say bout it!!!



Now back home:

Monday, November 12, 2007 10:39 AM

Subject: On the field for the WVU game

Attachments: WVU Vets 2007.JPG

Hey all, here is a picture we took right before we went onto the field at the WVU game on Thursday. It was really neat; when we stepped onto the field the crowd went crazy!!! It was so loud!! Then they announced our names one by one and talked a little about what we had done. We hope to get the video of everything. Unfortunately, everyone at home watching the game on TV didn’t see it; we stepped onto the field during one of the TV time outs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 9:51 AM

Subject: My new Girlfriends!!!!!

Attachments: My new girlfriends wvu.jpg

Hello again!!!

Well, I got some more pictures of my friends and me down on the field; as I am sure you can figure out, I like these pictures alot more than the other one I sent out!!!

(The first picture was with the Mountaineer, a guy; the second was with the female cheerleaders.)


Shared by Terry Cullinan on December 11, 2013

He claimed to be the first son in the history of the world who wasn't spoiled by his Italian mother.

Shared by Terry Cullinan on July 12, 2013

What it means to be a captain


I told Joe this story shortly after he was promoted to captain.

In Da Nang, S. Vietnam, I was a first lieutenant, an intelligence officer assigned to XXIV Corps at Camp Horn. A ferry crossed the Han River between downtown Da Nang and Camp Horn every 30 minutes.

I had boarded the ferry on the Da Nang side, and the boat was 20 yards from the dock when the MP in charge of boarding whistled to the ferry’s driver. We all turned and looked at the MP, who, with his index and second finger, drew two imaginary bars on his hat – captain’s bars – and waved the ferry back to the dock.

“That MP wouldn’t have called the ferry back for a lieutenant,” I told Joe.

Shared by Terry Cullinan on June 9, 2013

From Pat and Andrea's wedding reception, July 8, 2013

Shared by Terry Cullinan on June 9, 2013

Sue's new vanity plate 

Shared by Terry Cullinan on May 28, 2013

On Veteran's Day 2007, Joe landed his Blackhawk on the 50 yard line before the assembled student body of Brooke High School. When he stepped from the helicopter, the announcer said the pilot was "Lt. Joe Cullinan, a 1997 graduate of Brooke High School," and Joe got a big cheer. That evening, the landing was broadcast on WTOV-TV in Steubenville. The news broadcaster, a young woman, told her audience before the film was shown: "You have to see this. This is awesome!" She didn't identify any members of the flight crew, but her statement pretty much summed up Joe's life.

Shared by Terry Cullinan on May 26, 2013

A generous and elegant gesture by Chris and Stacy Cullinan, who were married on May 25, 2013. This gesture was also made by Zach and Meghan Whitt, who were married on June 11, 2011. Their printed message was: "As a wedding favor to our guests, a donation has been made to the Sarcoma Foundation by the Getty and Whitt families in honor of Captain Joseph L. Cullinan, a dear friend of ours who recently lost a hard-fought battle with cancer."

Shared by Terry Cullinan on October 30, 2012

Emerging from the bathroom, pushing his tree of med sacks and small computers, blinking lights and power cords, he said, “Let’s walk.”

In the hallway, he directed, “Behind the line.”

I looked down and saw that the dark tiles formed a line where they met the light tiles, and I got behind it. Then we were off.

It’s a long hallway, 30 yards or so, filled with medical personnel in their uniforms, from doctors in white coats to orderlies in dark-blue scrubs to all the variations of nurses in bright, happy shades. Looked like two or three employees for every customer on the 3rd floor.

There were gurneys and carts and computers on wheels along the way. Women were bitching about their boyfriends, their husbands, their kids, their pay, their jobs.

Up we went, and down, and back up, and back down. We extended no greetings, acknowledged no “ataboys,” permitted no distractions, allowed no idle conversation. We stepped smartly and stayed focused.

For he was the captain, and we were on a mission.

-- UPMC Shadyside, December 2010 

We arrived late, as we usually do, and were waived through by the guard -- last time at the 152nd's armory, we all had to show IDs. It was October, and we were there to see Joe off. "They're leaving now," the guard said.

     Joe came out of the building in civilian clothes, hugs and handshakes all around. There were tears elsewhere for wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, but not in our corner. For us, it was more about adventure than anything else.

     Joe got on the rented van with about half the unit's complement; the other half drove their own cars.

     It was one of those reality dramas that plays best in small river towns. The parade out of Moundsville was led by a firetruck and half a dozen police cars, their lights flashing. We drove straight through stop signs and red lights and headed south on Route 2. You could drop out whenever you felt like it; we did after five miles.

     The sun was bright, the sky was blue, and all our flags were flying.

   -- Joe, a military policeman then, is activated following 9/11 


Shared by Terry Cullinan on October 26, 2012


Good Friday, April 22, 2011, the Morning Glory Inn, South Side, cold and wet, but a wonderful celebration with family and friends.

I was sitting in the piano room in a chair against the wall, and Joe was 15 feet away on the sofa, one leg on a table. He was tired.

Three young men came by. They were leaving the party. All were in suits. They were strong men; they looked like soldiers.

The first one bent down and put his arms around Joe. He stood aside, and the next one bent down and put his arms around Joe.

The third one extended his hand to Joe, and Joe took it. The guy started to leave, and Joe motioned to him, said something. And the third guy bent over and gave Joe a hug, too.



            Joe was one of two freshman who were on the Varsity Soccer Team at Brooke High in 1993. It was a long campaign that year, lots of aggressive play, close calls, lucky bounces and sudden opportunities.

But when all was said and done, the Bruins were still standing for the last game of the year inWest Virginiahigh school soccer, and so was Buckhannon-Upshur, the “Buck-Ups.” The game was played on a Saturday night in November somewhere down south, a long way from home. When the final whistle blew, the Bruins trailed, 1-nil.

Parents and players milled around on the field after the game, and when Joe found me, he put his arm around my neck, held me tight and sobbed into my shoulder.



Joe was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa at WVU. Sue and I went to the frat house one Saturday for a Parents Day event, had dinner there – a good meal – and toured the facility. Joe told us about his pledge ordeal. The pledges were ordered to remove a boulder mostly buried beside the frat house, and while everyone gave it his best shot, the big rock stayed put. Finally, Joe picked up the sledge, took a mighty swing, and blasted that boulder into a million pieces.



I introduced Joe to tennis when he was 11 or 12. Took him to a store to buy an undersized, entry-level, generic racket. But that wouldn’t do. He wanted the name-brand, autographed undersized model, which cost an additional $10. I tried to reason with the guy; he’d never played the game before, maybe he wouldn’t like it. No matter; only the autographed model would do. So I sprang for it.

We played now and then. Wasn’t much of a game, he had a long way to go.

A few years later, I got a good deal on a racket somewhere, big discount, I paid $65. Joe’s senior year in high school, he joined the tennis team and used my new racket, even though he felt it was an inferior weapon.

That summer, he and I played another match, our first in several years. He wanted the $65 racket, and I used a lesser one that I picked up cheap. He won the first set, 6-love.

I said let’s do it again but I get the good racket. He won the second set, 6-3.

I never had any desire to play tennis with him again.

-- Terry

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