Richard Leary was born on September 14, 1954, in Connecticut. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program at Syracuse University on May 7, 1976, and went on active duty beginning December 7, 1976. After attending training at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, from January to August 1977, Lt Leary served with the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland, from September 1977 to December 1980. He then attended Undergraduate Navigator Training at Mather AFB, California, earning his Navigator wings in August 1981, followed by Reconnaissance Systems Operator and RF-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from September 1981 to May 1982. His next assignment was as an RF-4 Reconnaissance Systems Operator with the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Bergstrom AFB, Texas, from May 1982 to May 1987, and then on the Combat Operations Staff of Alaskan Air Command and then 11th Air Force at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, from June 1987 to May 1991. Major Leary served with Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein AB, West Germany, from July 1991 to December 1994, and his final assignment was as an E-3 Sentry Navigator with the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron at Elmendorf AFB from January 1995 until he was killed in the crash of an E-3B Sentry (Call Sign "Yukla 27") shortly after takeoff from Elmendorf AFB on September 22, 1995. Richard Leary was buried at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery on Fort Richardson, Alaska.
His 2nd Meritorious Service Medal Citation reads:
Members of Flight Yukla 27 distinguished themselves in the performance of outstanding service to the United States and Canada while serving as E-3 Airborne Warning and Air Control Systems air crew members assigned to 3rd Wing, 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron and the 381st Air Intelligence Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. They consistantly demonstrated outstanding airmanship while providing long range airborne surveillance, detection, identification, and command and control during deployed operations and in the Alaska region. All were dedicated volunteers selflessly serving, and fully committed to the defense of their nations and the Alaska region. Our memory of these airmen will forever be of professionals who stepped to the front and answered the call to duty and made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace and freedom. The distinctive accomplishments of each of these individuals reflect credit upon themselves, the United States Air Force, and Canadian Forces.