DALLAS TWP. — Society tends to view deceased veterans as wise older men when, in fact, they were just boys when they died, Jack Cleary said at the dedication of the 1st Lt. Michael J. Cleary Veterans Memorial Monday.
Cleary pulled his sentiment from former President Ronald Regan’s 1985 Memorial Day speech at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia to share with a crowd of over 70 attendees for the monument’s dedication. The memorial is named after Cleary’s son.
The 1st. Lt. Michael J. Cleary Veterans Memorial, located near the tennis courts next to the Dallas Middle School, was an Eagle Scout project for Dallas High School junior Matthew R. Roberts, a member of the Boy Scout Troop 146.
Now, it stands as a solemn reminder to all Dallas School District alumni who served in the military.
“When they died, they gave up their chances of being husbands, fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men,” Cleary quoted the United States 40th president as having said. “They gave up everything for their country — for us.”
Michael J. Cleary was a 1999 graduate of Dallas Senior High School. He joined the U.S. Army and achieved the rank of First Lieutenant and Platoon Leader of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team, Echo Company, 1/15 Infantry Regiment, Third Brigade, Third Infantry Division.
The 24-year-old was killed in December 2005 in an ambush by hostile forces near Samarra, Iraq.
“All we can do is remember,” his father said.
Remembering was the simple goal Roberts set out to achieve by creating the memorial.
“At the time I thought of this project idea, the country was immersed in the debate about kneeling during the ‘National Anthem,’” Roberts said. “It was then that I realized that we didn’t have a flag or a way to honor the flag.”
Roberts first approached Jack Cleary and his family to get their permission to place an American flag at Cleary Field, a soccer field located next to Wycallis Elementary School.
Then in November, he approached the school board and learned the soccer field would become the site of the new Dallas Intermediate School.
Dallas School District Superintendent Thomas Duffy and the school project’s engineer Ryan Kennedy with Alloy 5 worked with Roberts to design a memorial that features a solar-powered flag pole.
Joey’s Landcare helped the teen with the landscaping design and a variety of businesses as well as organizations assisted with funding.
Scouts from Troop 146 hoisted the American flag at the memorial for the first time on Memorial Day.
State Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Lehman Twp.), state Rep. Karen Boback, (R-Luzerne, Wyoming and Lackawanna counties), District Judge Brian J. Tupper (11-3-09), and Back Mountain Chamber President and attorney Thomas Mosca attended the event.
Lt. Cleary’s mother Marianne and his brother Patrick, as well as other family and friends, were also in attendance.
“I want to say thank you from Marianne, Patrick and our family about the wonderful job and the wonderful turnout,” Jack Cleary said.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.