Woman gets proof brother wasn't a deserter
PHILADELPHIA — Virginia Cleary never gave up.
In the 43 years since her older brother, Marine Cpl. Robert Daniel Corriveau, a decorated Vietnam veteran, went missing from the Philadelphia Naval Hospital and was declared a deserter, she never stopped searching for him.
She wrote countless letters, pestered senators and congressmen, traveled from her New Hampshire home to Philadelphia to search archives, scoured faces in crowds, battled with military and state officials for records, and enlisted police and private detectives.
Finally, on May 31, state police were able to identify the remains of Corriveau, found stabbed to death in Chester County.
On Nov. 18, 1968, the same day the 20-year-old Marine from Lawrence, Mass., disappeared from the hospital, an unidentified man was found dead alongside the Pennsylvania Turnpike near the Downingtown interchange.
He was stabbed once though the heart and covered with a Navy pea coat. He carried no identification. He was buried at Longwood Cemetery in Kennett Square.
It would be days before the family learned Corriveau was missing.
Cleary remembers Corriveau as an excellent athlete who loved to play baseball and hockey. He attended Mount St. Charles Academy, a boys' boarding school in Rhode Island.
He enlisted in the Marines at age 17 and was sent to Vietnam, where he served two tours.
He fought with the Third Battalion, Fourth Marine Division, and was wounded in action three times. He was sent home with two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, and a chest full of ribbons.
Corriveau could not shake the flashbacks that tormented him sleeping and waking, Cleary said.
Corriveau was first treated at the Chelsea Naval Hospital in Massachusetts. He was home on leave in October 1968, then traveled to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital to receive more psychiatric treatment.
Cleary said that on Nov. 18, the hospital staff reported Corriveau, who was in a locked ward, missing at morning roll call.
In July 2009, investigators from the state missing persons unit and the Chester County District Attorney's Office decided to exhume the body at Longwood buried under the name John Doe.
A DNA profile was obtained and entered into the national missing-persons database.
NCIS would later visit Cleary to obtain her DNA and confirm the match.
Cleary wasn't done fighting. She insisted that the Marines change the deserter designation. And she had to go to court to get custody of her brother's body so he could be buried next to his father and deceased brother.
“After 43 years, we were shocked to find out what happened to him,” she said. “And on the other side, we were happy that we finally knew.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh police chief: Officers, public must unite against violence
- Port Authority committee to focus on natural-gas bus fleet for proposed rapid transit line from Downtown to Oakland
- New Monroeville Mall policy aims to tame teen shoppers
- Body found in rubble after Shaler house fire
- Grant to bolster ranks of Pittsburgh police
- Newsmaker: Robert Gould
- Allegiant Air to add flights from Pittsburgh to Myrtle Beach
- Black Pittsburghers still challenged in education, workforce, housing
- Pittsburgh councilwoman Rudiak announces bid for city controller
- University of Pittsburgh Senior Vice Chancellor Humphrey to be paid $395K a year