Robert Berry Sinclair, a highly decorated Marine Corps aviator who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, was celebrated during a burial at sea Monday, Aug. 13. Sinclair, of Dana Point, California, died July 14. He was 96.
About 60 family members, friends, and military veterans gathered aboard Dana Wharf’s Dana Pride, which took the group two miles off the Dana Point Headlands where the ceremony took place.
USMC (ret.) Gen. J. K. Davis, a four-star general, and naval aviator, of San Clemente, attended as did Dana Point Mayor Rick Viczorek, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves.
“He was a great American, a great Marine and Dana Point resident,” Viczorek said. “In the Marine Corps, we’re all about history and those that have gone before us. This is a Marine from World War II — a member of the Greatest Generation who fought in three wars. I’m thankful for them allowing me to be part of it. He won the Silver Star.”
Sinclair was awarded the Silver Star for action in Korea for “superb airmanship, daring initiative, and exceptional courage.”
Family members — each wearing one of Sinclair’s many medals and awards — distributed his ashes into the sea. The ceremony also included a reading of a military poem, dedicated to aviators, by one of Sinclair’s son.
Following the ceremony, a Marine Corps Honor Guard from Camp Pendleton carried out a 21-gun salute. A folded flag was given to Sinclair’s wife, Patsy.
“Today’s ceremony was not only a beautiful and moving tribute to our father but also a testament to his long and distinguished military career as a naval aviator, ” said Leslie Greve. “Robert Sinclair enjoyed his life in Dana Point for the past 40 years, and today his ashes were scattered (outside) Dana Point Harbor as a perfect ending to a well-lived life.”
Sinclair, who served in the Logistics Branch for the Division of Aviation in Washington, D.C. and was commander of the Fighter/Attack Group in Yuma, Ariz., left the Marine Corps in 1975 as a colonel and chief-of-staff for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, when it was based at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.
He flew combat missions during World War II, the Korean War and in Vietnam. In addition to the Silver Star, he was awarded two Legion of Merits, the Distinguished Flying Cross and 18 Air Medals during his tours of duty.
Sinclair’s Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest medal for valor, came as a surprise to many in the Sinclair family and others close to him.
“Most of the time, the guys don’t talk about their service,” said Don Hansen, of San Clemente, who was friends with Sinclair for more than 50 years. “We played golf and he never talked about it.”
It wasn’t until after Sinclair died that his family began looking through his service records. They and Hansen had been working on getting some type of military honors for the burial.
“We had a heck of a time until we found the Silver Star,” Hansen said. “Then things jumped together in a hurry. Bobby went down to the ground guns blazing to save his commanding officer. That’s how he got the Silver Star. When he landed on the (aircraft carrier), the flight crew came out and saw the mud and said, ‘Where have you been?’
“I don’t think Bobby ever told us he got the Silver Star. Those guys (Marines) don’t talk about that, it’s just what they did.”
Hansen started Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching in Dana Point Harbor in 1971. Having his friend’s memorial on the Dana Pride, he said, meant a lot to him and their longtime friendship.
“I was happy they asked me to do it,” Hansen said. “The ceremony was beautiful. I think Bobby would have been honored. Knowing him, he would have thought we went overboard.”
Sinclair is survived by his wife, Patsy Ellis Sinclair, five children (Leslie, Kathleen, Robert, Michael and John), eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
©2018 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.