Marine serving town after 28 years in military

Marine serving town after 28 years in military

NORTH SMITHFIELD - Jamie LeClair has been to 37 countries, won 15 military awards and fought in three wars.

He's been an airborne ranger, a rappel master, a combat scuba diver and a scout sniper. He served through the fall of Manuel Noriega, fought against warlords in the street of Mogadishu, and helped to secure Al Jabbar International Airport in Iraq.

Now, he's settled back into life in his hometown of North Smithfield and is spending his days catching up with friends and family members he hasn't seen in nearly 30 years, while helping to clean up the town's parks and streets as a member of the Department of Public Works.

LeClair, the youngest of 11 children, joined the Marines after graduating from North Smithfield High School in 1985.

"I wanted to make my dad proud," the veteran told The Breeze.

LeClair was one of three from his tribe to carry on the family's military tradition. His father, Paul LeClair, had served as a tail gunner on a B17 Bomber in World War II. North Smithfield's VFW Hall - LeClair¬?Kozlik¬?Logan Bassett¬?Post # 6342 - was named in part after Jamie's uncle, Herbert LeClair, who died in that war at the age of 22. Two of Jamie's brothers also left the family's Quaker Highway home to join the Air Force, and wound up serving 22 and 23 years respectively.

Jamie attended boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. and was stationed 13 weeks later at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

He attended the School of Infantry but says he thought "there has to be more," and quickly signed on to serve on sniper platoons. He spent four years as the chief scout sniper, which brought him to his first campaign "Operation Just Cause" in Panama in 1989.

LeClair then volunteered for the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, which helped him achieve a number of qualifications he needed to become a Recon Marine. Desert Shield and Desert Storm were his next stops, where for 16 months he served in a deep reconnaissance platoon securing the Al Jabbar International Airport, Al Wafa Forest area, and Koffchee.

LeClair returned from Iraq but soon joined a Marine Corps special forces unit on a campaign to Somalia.

By the time he retired, 28 years later, his qualifications would include: close quarter battle instructor, breacher, airborne ranger, amphibious recon marine scout sniper, combat scuba diver, rappel master, winter warfare instructor, and helicopter rope suspension trainer.

His personal awards include: Sea Service Deployment Ribbon X4; Good Conduct Medal X8; Humanitarian Service Medal X2; Meritorious Masts X5; Certificates of Commendation X3; National Defense Service Medal X1; South Asian Service Medal X4,; Combat Action Ribbon X3; Navy Unit Commendation X1; Kuwait Liberation Medal X1; Joint Unit Meritorious Commendation Medal X1; Secretary of the Navy Letter of Commendation X1; Meritorious Unit Commendation X1; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal X1; and Somalia Campaign Ribbon X1.

LeClair retired on July 1, 2013, and by July 4, he was on his way back to North Smithfield for a barbecue. It was intended to be a short visit, but his brother recruited him to help refurbish a barn and old friends were quick welcome him home and help him find work.

"I always kind of wanted to come back to New England," he said. "It's been quite a fun time visiting friends and family I haven't seen since high school."

His immediate goals include returning to Killington to ski the slopes and catching a Bruin's and a Patriot's game.

LeClair says he's been asked several times why he didn't go to the country's last war in Afganistan.

"I figured three was enough," he said. "I thought training them properly would be the way to go."

What started as a temporary position in the Department of Public Works has turned into a full-time gig, and for now, the three war veteran is just enjoying being home.

"I am proud to represent the town in which I grew up in as a boy, and wanted to return to give something back," he said.