Dean Learish


 Cullum No. 24285-1962 | August 2, 1981 | Died in Clearfield,PA

Interred in Bradford Cemetery, Woodland, PA


It was for Clearfield High School in Pennsylvania that Dean Lee Learish  played both offensive and defensive back on the 1957 football team which, undefeated and untied, won district and conference titles. A superb athlete known for his physical prowess, Dean was hotly recruited by West Point to play football for the Army team. He was accepted to join the USMA Class of 1962.

Unfortunately, Dean’s dream to play football for Army was cut short when he suffered several concussions during plebe year. Undaunted, Dean embraced cadet life and pursued athletics through the intramural program as a member of Company L2. Also, the physical education department assigned him as an assistant instructor in wrestling so his classmates would not have to wrestle him for a grade. Firstie year he coached a classmate in wrestling to gain the regimental championship. Answering his own competitive spirit, Dean proved very successful at boxing. He won repeatedly in the brigade boxing tournament up to the brigade championship bout which he lost to a much heavier and longer armed opponent who inflicted yet another concussion that sent him to the hospital. Undeterred, he continued to compete in athletics, always demonstrating a great fighting spirit and competitiveness.

An avid Infantryphile, Dean graduated from West Point with a commission in the Infantry branch. Before reporting for Infantry training, Dean married his high school sweetheart, Karen Kenyon, in June 1962 at a ceremony in Clearfield. He and Karen moved to Fort Benning where he completed the Infantry Officer Orientation Course, Airborne School and Ranger Training. During the mountain phase of Ranger training, Dean’s class endured an unexpected temperature drop to minus 12 degrees. Forty-seven percent of the class was evacuated to the hospital suffering from frostbite. According to Dean, though, he survived the ordeal “due to my stubborn attitude.”

After successfully acquiring his Ranger Tab, Dean was assigned to the 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, KY. Karen and Dean settled into Army life and in 1963 their first child, Kevin, was born, followed by a second son, Randy, in 1964. 

Upon reporting for duty, Lieutenant Learish completed the division jumpmaster and air delivery courses. He then embarked on 101st Airborne Division parachutist operations in the California Mojave Desert. It was in the Mojave Desert that Dean satisfactorily performed his first jumpmaster assignment.

Ranger training prepared Dean to overcome the adversity experienced in his next duty assignment, Special Warfare and Special Forces Officer Training at Fort Bragg, NC. Following completion of the training at Fort Bragg in December 1965 he was assigned to Detachment B, Counter Insurgency Team at Fort Gulick, Canal Zone, Panama. Despite a shortage of military housing, Karen and the boys were able to join him there and Karen gave birth to their daughter Kelly in 1966. Among his operations with Detachment B was a temporary duty counter insurgency assignment in Venezuela of which few details are known.

In September 1967, Captain Learish began a tour in Vietnam where he was assigned to command Company C, 2nd Battalion (Tall Comanche), 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. Dean performed his duties in an exemplary manner and was awarded two Army Commendation Medals for Valor during combat operations in the Central Highlands. While leading his company on an air assault mission to rescue a convoy caught in an enemy ambush and disregarding his own safety, he adjusted artillery fire on the enemy positions, then assaulted the insurgents and succeeded in neutralizing their force.

In June 1968, Dean Learish was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism while serving on temporary duty as an advisor to the 1st ARVN Division. The citation states: “When his unit became heavily engaged with a large enemy force, Captain Learish exposed himself to hostile fire as he directed his unit’s fire on the insurgents’ positions and then called in and adjusting artillery fire on the enemy.” For this action he was cited “for his display of personal bravery and devotion to duty keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.”

October 1968, Dean was assigned to Fort Eustis, VA, to teach special warfare and small unit defense to officers of the Transportation Branch. While at Fort Eustis, Dean was promoted to major and recognized for his “ability to present highly complex subject matter in a clear understandable manner.”

After Dean and Karen’s fourth child, Sean, was born, Dean determined it was time to return to civilian status. His Regular Army discharge was effective Jul 24, 1970, and he accepted a plant engineer position with Harbison Walker Company in Vandalia, MO. In 1975, following a heart attack at age thirty-five, he asked for a transfer to the Harbsion Walker plant in Clearfield where there was support for his family should something further impact his health. Then, in August 1981 at age forty-one, Dean suffered a second heart attack which proved to be fatal. The decision to move back home served the Learish family well for the children grew up there and all four graduated from their parents’ alma mater, Clearfield High School.

One might expect that this rugged, Airborne Ranger, Special Forces Infantry officer would have had an unyielding personality. In fact, Dean Learish was always known for his good nature and easy going manner. He was well liked and respected by those who knew him. Unfortunately, Dean was taken from his family and friends much too early in life. He did not have the opportunity to see his children grow to adulthood nor to satisfy his goals for his community. However, he most certainly met all expectations for him as a Soldier. Throughout his service he demonstrated true grit, valor, honor, and exemplary leadership.

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