Marine remembered for his determination

N.H. resident slain in combat in Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Michael Geary of Derry, N.H., who was killed during combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Dec. 8, had wanted to be a Marine since he was 14 years old, has father says. He joined the Corps when he was 18. Lance Corporal Michael Geary of Derry, N.H., who was killed during combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Dec. 8, had wanted to be a Marine since he was 14 years old, has father says. He joined the Corps when he was 18. (Photo Courtesy of Family via Associated Press)
By Thomas Byrne
Globe Correspondent / December 15, 2010

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MALDEN — Lance Corporal Michael E. Geary was a determined, level-headed teenager who decided at an early age he wanted to be a US Marine, his family says.

“Since he was 14, it was all he talked about,’’ said his father, Tim Geary of Derry, N.H. “I asked him why the Marines. His response was, ‘Because they’re the best.’ The Marine Corps was everything to him.’’

Corporal Geary, 20, who was from Derry and had roots in Malden, was killed in action in Afghanistan last week, local officials and the military said yesterday.

He died Dec. 8 during combat operations in Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, according to the US Department of Defense.

Corporal Geary was born in Malden, spent his early childhood in Brookline, and had lived since the age of 9 in Derry, where he graduated from Pinkerton Academy in 2009.

He was assigned to the Second Battalion, Ninth Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division, Second Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The Massachusetts Senate is expected to adjourn an informal session tomorrow in honor of Corporal Geary, said Michael Smith, a spokesman for Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei’s office.

The presiding senator, scheduled to be James E. Timilty, Democrat of Walpole, is to read a statement paying tribute to Corporal Geary, in which family and teachers express their memories of the young man before and after he donned his Marine uniform, according to a copy of the statement.

Joseph Dion, one of Corporal Geary’s teachers at Pinkerton, described him as “a young man people could admire for his conviction and his accomplishment.’’

“I am saddened by Mike’s death because he was so young,’’ Dion said in the statement, which was provided to the Globe.

“But like so many other Marines I have known, his sacrifice reinforces for me why we should not take for granted the men and women who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces.’’

Corporal Geary enlisted at 18, said his father, who spoke with pride about a son he said was kind and thoughtful, perhaps more so than others his age.

“For a kid his age, he had his head on pretty straight,’’ Geary said, remembering times the two would fish together. “We had a cookout just before he went away. The last time I actually saw him and spoke to him in person was the week he left.’’

Corporal Geary had been stationed in Afghanistan since July, his father said.

Geary said his son was an active teenager who loved to go running. The two joined a gym together before he shipped out.

“He was an old soul,’’ said Corporal Geary’s aunt, Shannon Brandano, a lawyer who practices in Malden.

“He just knew exactly what he wanted in his life, and there was no room for skepticism. For a person of such a young age to articulate that, and to have such a clear sense of direction, is just amazing to me.’’

Brandano said the Marine doted on his mother and was a role model for some of the younger family members at gatherings. Brandano said she remembered when at a family cookout, her 14-year-old son looked up to his elder cousin.

“My son did not leave his side; he was just mesmerized by him,’’ Brandano said. “[Michael] was infectious, he just had an infectious personality.’’

In addition to his father and aunt, Corporal Geary leaves his mother, Nancy (Buiting) of Derry; an uncle, William of Londonderry, N.H., a grandmother, Beverly of Londonderry; and a grandfather, Robert Antle of Billerica.

He was promoted to lance corporal March 1, and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in July, the Department of Defense said.

His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Meda, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Department of Defense said.

A wake is planned tomorrow from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Peabody Funeral Home in Londonderry, N.H., with a 10 a.m. service Friday at St. Thomas Church in Derry.

Burial will follow at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, N.H.

Thomas Byrne can be reached at