DALLAS, PA, USA U.S. Army 1LT, ENGINEER CO, 1ST BN, 15TH INFANTRY, 3D BCT, (TF BAGHDAD), FORT BENNING, GA TAJI, IRAQ 12/20/2005
A local family is mourning the death of a family member killed in Iraq. First Lieutenant Michael Cleary was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb. He was 24.
Cleary’s sister, Erin Cleary Flanagan, lives in Bedford. Her husband, James Flanagan, is a St. Anselm College administrator. Flanagan says her family has been receiving sympathy calls from soldiers who say her brother saved their lives.
“There is nothing he wouldn’t do for his men,” said his father, Jack Cleary. “He was disgusted with the way the war has been portrayed in the media. But he was also terribly ready to come home and be out of there.”
Cleary was killed in Taji along with Spc. Richard Junior D. Naputi, 24, of Talofofo, Guam. Both were assigned to the 1st Battalion 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning.
Cleary’s death came two months before he was to marry his high school sweetheart, Erin Kavanagh. Their wedding was scheduled for Feb. 18. Jack Cleary said he spoke to his son the day before he died. Michael talked about his new pickup, his upcoming honeymoon and the fact that the 3rd Brigade was under the control of the New York National Guard, Jack Cleary said.
“He was very upset that they were sending home some of his men without their awards, awards like the Combat Infantryman’s Badge,” Cleary said. “Those soldiers need those awards for things like promotions and he was fighting for his men. That’s the kind of officer he was. Michael was a fine man. He cared about all people great and small.”
Michael Cleary graduated from Airborne School, Ranger School and Anti-Terrorist School before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in December 2003, according to his father.
He was the captain of the tennis and soccer teams at Dallas High School, where he graduated in 1999. He enlisted in the Army after getting an economics degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. His active-duty obligation would have ended in December 2006, and he planned to come home and work at his father’s company, Cleary Forest Products.