HONORING FIRST LIEUTENANT MICHAEL CLEARY; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 199
(Senate - December 12, 2019)

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[Pages S7016-S7017]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. CASEY. Mr. President, I rise today to honor the life of 1LT 
Michael Cleary from Dallas, PA. It has been 14 years since his death. 
Michael is one of some 288 Pennsylvanians killed in action in the wars 
in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  First Lieutenant Cleary served as platoon leader of the Explosive 
Ordnance Disposal Team in E Company, 1st of the 15th Regiment, 3rd 
Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.
  On December 20, 2005, First Lieutenant Cleary was killed in action 
while working in a bomb factory near Samarra, Iraq. His platoon was 
ambushed outside the facility. He was just 24 years old.
  Even prior to joining the Army, Michael Cleary was an active member 
of his community. He graduated from Dallas Senior High School in 
Dallas, PA, and was a 4-year varsity athlete in both soccer and tennis. 
He was captain of both teams in his senior year. He received the Dr. 
Pepper Soccer MVP Scholarship and a history scholarship at high school 
graduation and was offered academic scholarships at Ursinus College, 
Gettysburg, as well as Dickinson and Lafayette--all very strong 
academic institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania.
  He followed his father's footsteps and chose Hamilton College in New 
York. While at Hamilton, First Lieutenant Cleary participated in 
varsity soccer and lettered in varsity tennis. After the September 11, 
2001, attacks on our Nation, he wanted to enlist in the Special Forces 
but chose to follow the advice of his mother and stayed in school until 
completing his studies.
  In May 2003, he graduated from Hamilton with honors. During his 
senior year, he applied to and was accepted into the Marine flight 
officer program. He was notified that his class would be deferred until 
January. Not wanting to wait any longer to serve his country, Michael 
Cleary decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. Three weeks after college 
graduation, he went to basic training and earned his airborne wings and 
sapper tab and graduated from the Special Air Service Antiterrorist 
  The news of First Lieutenant Cleary's death came just before he was 
scheduled to return home during the Christmas season. He was also 
planning to get married 2 months after he returned home to his high 
school sweetheart. First Lieutenant Cleary earned the following awards 
and decorations: the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service 
Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army 
Service Ribbon, and Overseas Service Ribbon. His family also received 
First Lieutenant Cleary's U.S. Army Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
  Following his death, First Lieutenant Cleary's father, Jack, 
described his last conversation with his son the day before he died. 
Jack Cleary is someone I have gotten to know since his son's passing, 
but here is what Jack said at that time. I am quoting him directly. 
``He''--meaning Michael--``was very upset that they were sending home 
some of his men without their awards . . . for things like promotions, 
and he was fighting for his men. That is the kind of officer he was. 
Michael was a fine man. He cared about all people, great and small.''
  Jack Cleary knows of what he speaks because he, himself, served in 
Vietnam and, as I mentioned earlier, was also a graduate of the same 
college. 1LT Michael Cleary's legacy lives on with his family. His 
mother, Marianne, is a member of Gold Star Mothers where she works to 
support veterans, military families, and her community every day.
  Jon Bellona, Michael's college roommate, is a director and founder of 
the 1LT Michael Joseph Cleary: Run for the Fallen, a run across America 
to raise awareness about the lives of those who fought to activate 
their memories and to keep their spirits alive. Run for the Fallen 
supports organizations that help wounded veterans, as well as the 
families of those killed, and helps aid the healing process for those 
Americans whose lives have been affected by war.
  All Americans are grateful for the friends and family of fallen 
servicemembers who not only continue the legacy of service to the 
Nation, but who take their tragedy and turn it into a force for good.
  1LT Michael Cleary is one of so many bright, talented, and dedicated 
young men and women who have died in service to our country. While I 
speak specifically of Michael today, his story is the story of 
thousands of men and women across our country, hundreds of them in 
Pennsylvania who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and 
also have given their lives in service of American values, values like 
democracy and liberty and rule of law.
  As we remember Michael Cleary, we should also remember the words of 
Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln reminded us that people like Michael 
Cleary gave, as Lincoln said, ``The last full measure of devotion to 
our country.'' It is at times like this when we should remember not 
only those words, but also other words from the Gettysburg Address, 
where he said, ``It is us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to 
the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly 
  So that was our charge from President Lincoln all those generations 
ago. We must strive every day, whether we are citizens or public 
officials, whatever our station in life, we must strive every day to 
complete that unfinished work that Lincoln talked about, so that, as we 
discuss major security issues like U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan or 
combating the resurgence of ISIS in the Middle East or exercising 
oversight over U.S. military engagements overseas and look increasingly 
to try to resolve complicated global crises, we must not forget that 
those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and service to our country, 
particularly in the most recent wars, are those we should remember.
  Just consider these numbers of Americans who have lost their lives in 
the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with an additional seven killed in 
African Command operations since 2001. That number is 6,989 Americans 
just in those conflicts, just in that timeframe. These 6,989 Americans 
includes some 300 servicemembers from Pennsylvania, the fifth highest 
total of any State. No. 2, over 49,000 in that time period have been 
wounded, including more than roughly 2,000 from Pennsylvania. So 6,989 
killed since 2001 nationwide and over 49,000 wounded in that time 
  Third, although the administration refuses to be transparent in its 
deployment tracking, press reports indicate that approximately 19,000 
Americans are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, with an 
additional 65,000 serving the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia.
  This year, Pennsylvania lost MSG Benjamin Hines of York County, PA, 
assigned to the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine 
Forces Reserve. He was killed by a roadside bomb on April 8 in Parwan 
Province, Afghanistan, along with two other marines: SSG Christopher 
Slutman and SGT Robert Hendricks. Staff Sergeant Slutman also had 
family ties to my home State of Pennsylvania.
  While we are so grateful that Pennsylvania did not suffer more losses 
this year, any loss of life is not only devastating, but should also 
cause us to reconsider the nature of our military commitments overseas. 
These fighting men and women are born into families,

[[Page S7017]]

not into divisions and brigades. They are sons and daughters, husbands 
and wives, fathers and mothers. Their love for their families are 
matched only by their devotion to our country, but many more bear the 
scars of war.
  Some families have a loved one who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and 
were returned home, but who were one of the more than 49,000 who were 
wounded. We must not overlook the unusually high percentage of Iraq and 
Afghanistan veterans who have died since returning home, whether from a 
drug overdose or suicide or the effects of combat. Thousands of 
American families continue to pay a terrible price for the courage and 
dedication of their family members who gave life and limb for this 
  We have much to think about, not only on this day, but, of course, in 
this season--this season of hope, this season of gratitude, this season 
of our time together with our families back home, but we should 
especially remember those families who have loved and lost, those who 
have lost someone in combat, those who have lost someone who served so 
nobly, served on behalf of the rest of us.
  At this time, Mr. President, I know you have personal experience with 
this, having served yourself, and I know that you understand this. It 
is an important time to remember those who have given so much for our 
country, with the spirit of gratitude for their service, hope that we 
don't have more losses in the coming year, and with confidence that 
they have set a great example for us.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Braun). Without objection, it is so