Robert Earl Cleary
1931 - 2018
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Robert Earl Cleary

Virginia Beach - 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 ( ) or the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( ).

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Published in The Virginian-Pilot on Feb. 18, 2018.
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17 entries
February 9, 2020
Rest in Peace sir!. My sincere condolences to the Sergeant Majors family

Jim Bathurst
USMC (Ret)
E 2/1 1969-72
Jim Bathurst
February 7, 2020
Truly A MARINE's MARINE, who served our Nation, Marine Corps, and Community with Honor, Courage, and Commitment...REST IN PEACE, MARINE, and may GOD be with you. Your Legacy will live forever and be shared by Family, Friends, Marines and Corpsman, who are all proud to have been part of your life!

Semper Fi, Brother
Don Incheck
USMC 1966 - 1969
CPL 0331 E/2/1 RVN '68 & '69
Don Incheck
February 7, 2020
Truly a MARINEs MARINE...who served our Nation and Marine Corps with Honor, Courage, and Commitment...May he rest in Peace, and may his Family, Friends, and Marines and Corpsman who served under him be proud to have been part of his life! May God be with you, Marine!

Semper Fi, Brother

Don Incheck
RVN '68 & '69
Don Incheck
June 19, 2018
June 18, 2018
SGT Major Cleary's passing is a great loss to family country and the Marine Corps. My sincere condolences to the family.
John Cook
June 18, 2018
One of the best leaders I have ever known. He explained to us not only what we had to do but the reason why. As a young corpsman in his platoon I didn't know much about marine life but explained to us what he knew to be fact and what was a rumor. When I think of what a leader should be I think think of him as a example.
Terry Strickland
June 18, 2018
I am saddened to hear the news of SGT Major Cleary's passing. Please extend my prayers and sympathy to family, friends, and fellow Marines who served under his Command. May God be with him and his family as he joins our fallen Brothers!

Semper Fi
Don Incheck CPL 0331
E/2/1 RVN '68/'69
Don Incheck
June 18, 2018
To one of the finest Marines I ever had the honor to know. Thank you SgtMaj for everything including being one of my favorite mentors! Rest in peace sir! My condolences to the Cleary family

Take charge of the gates SgtMaj!
Semper Fi,'
Jim Bathurst Col, USMC (Ret)
Jim Bathurst
March 14, 2018
We miss you Bob. Church and this world won't be the same anymore with you back in heaven. Thank you for your service and all your prayers for me and my family and all you did for Church. You were an exceptional human being. We need more people like you and this world would be a much better place. May your rest in peace now. God's got you now.
Carol West
February 22, 2018
RIP Sergeant Major Cleary. Thank you for your years of honorable service to our great country. Condolences to the Cleary Family. Blessings.
CMSgt (Ret) Jim Freshwater
February 19, 2018
Bob Cleary impacted so many of us. It was Bob's and my honor to travel to Washington, DC with our young son Max and see the parade in his honor. We were floored by all the dignitaries and people there to show support and honor his service. He is such a wonderful gentleman and lives his Catholic faith. We will so miss our friendship with him. God bless you Bob, we love you! -Abbate's
Julie Abbate
February 19, 2018
Fair Winds and Following Seas
Thank you for all your years of service. Semper Fidelis
Jack Smith
February 19, 2018
In recognition of Sergeant Major Robert Earl Cleary USMC (Ret) Honorable Service in the United States Marine Corps, the members of the SSgt Walter F. 'Trae' Cohee III Detachment # 115, Salisbury, MD and the members the Tri-Cities Detachment # 969, Gray, TN of the Marine Corps League would like to extend our appreciation and gratitude for his service to God, Country and Corps as well as our sincere condolences to his family.


Don Elseroad
Staff Sergeant USMC (Ret)
MCL Detachment # 115 & # 969
Don Elseroad
February 18, 2018
Rest in peace SgtMajor......You helped get me into OCS in 1988. Semper Fi,
Ed Ramsey (LtCol USMC ret)
February 18, 2018
Sgt. Major Cleary was one of my D.I.'s Platoon 359 MCRD San Diego 1961. He was one of the finest men and the absolute best Marine I've ever known. I will always be proud to have known him and have him as a friend. Sgt. Major Cleary was a true Warrior and a Great American Hero and my personsal Hero never to be forgotten. Semper Fi Sgt. Major and Godspeed!
Bill Grace
February 18, 2018
Rest in peace, Sgt. Maj. Robert Cleary, USMC (Ret.)
May SgtMaj Cleary rest in God's eternal peace. My late husband John Moore (Col. USMC (Ret.)served with him in RVN in '68-'69 and admired him so much.I don't think he knew that he lived here in Virginia Neach! God be with your family.
Gay Moore
February 18, 2018
Semper Fi Marine, well done. RIP.
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