Read Mecleary was born in 1942 in the Bronx, New York. He received his commission through the U.S. Naval Academy on June 3, 1964, and was designated a Naval Aviator after completing flight training in December 1965. From December 1965 to July 1966, Mecleary trained in the A-4 Skyhawk with VA-125. He next flew with VA-93 and began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia in February 1967. On May 26, 1967, LTJG Mecleary was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War. He spent the next 2,109 days in captivity before being released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. After hospitalization, CDR Mecleary served with VF-126 at NAS Miramar, California, from June 1974 to January 1976, and with VR-30 at NAS Alameda, California, flying the C-9B Skytrain II from February 1976 to July 1976. He left active duty and went into the Naval Reserve on September 2, 1976, and continued flying the C-9 at Alameda and North Island, California. He assumed command of VR-57 at NAS North Island on May 26, 1983, and retired from the Naval Reserve on October 20, 1987. Captain Mecleary flew for American Airlines from July 1976 until his retirement on April 1, 2002. He married Margie Ann Suho of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a TWA Flight Attendant, in April 1974.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. On 29 May 1967, his captors, completely ignoring international agreements, subjected him to extreme mental and physical cruelties in an attempt to obtain military information and false confessions for propaganda purposes. Through his resistance to those brutalities, he contributed significantly toward the eventual abandonment of harsh treatment by the North Vietnamese, which was attracting international attention. By his determination, courage, resourcefulness, and devotion to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.