Sergeant Major Robert Earl Cleary, the 10th Sergeant Major of the United States Marine Corps, passed away on February 11, 2018 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, at the age of 86. He was born in Tewksbury, Massachusetts on June 2, 1931 to Thomas and Madeline Cleary. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on October 24, 1951 and retired June 26, 1987.
Sergeant Major Cleary served his country and the Corps with extraordinary pride and accomplishment for 36 years. He was trained in Demolition, was assigned to multiple Rifle Companies, served with the Military Police, was a Drill Instructor and was assigned to numerous Aviation Units. He served four combat tours to include one in Korea and three in Vietnam. He was and is the absolute epitome of a Marine. As a result, he was selected and served as the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, the highest enlisted position, for his final four years in the uniform. His awards include the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, three Air Medals, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V” and a gold star in lieu of a second award, Navy Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with palm, and Combat Aircrew Wings with three stars.
He was a devout Catholic attending daily Mass and quietly performing many tasks in support of his church priest and congregation. He was an active member of Knights of Columbus Council 13467, the best recruiter they ever had, and the Fourth Degree Assembly 1505.
He was a devoted husband and caregiver to his Lady June and a loving father and grandfather. He is survived by his wife June; Son, Michael (Karen); Daughters, Cheryl (Al), and Mary (Dick); Grandsons, Sean, Ryan, Tyler, Chris (Amie); Granddaughters, Katie, Jacquelyn, Aimee (Justin), and Darci (Matt); 3 Great Grandchildren; and Niece Jade.
Our country is fortunate for such a man. His family and friends are blessed for knowing him. Never short on words, one of his favorite comments was: "if you ask me the time I will build you a watch".
A memorial mass will be held on February 20 at 1:00 PM at St John the Apostle Catholic Church, 1968 Sandbridge Road, Virginia Beach. Cremated remains will be interred at the church and a reception will follow in the Church Commons.
Thank you, Sergeant Major Cleary, for your service to our country; thank you Dad and Grandpa for your love and guidance; and thank you, Bob, for shining the light of Christ to everyone around you.
In lieu of flowers the Cleary family requests that your donations be made to St John the Apostle for School and Outreach ( http://sjavb.org/school/sja-giving ) or the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( http://vbspca.com/donations/general-donations ).