Community Service Award. This is given to the GMC alumnus who has demonstrated exemplary community service through long-term volunteering, having an impact on the quality of life for others, providing leadership and creativity in dealing with societal problems and serving as an inspiration to others.
Cliff Leonard began his life of service as a member of the Georgia Military College Corps of Cadets in 1964. He left in 1965 and went on to join the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966. He served in the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Vietnam and retired at the rank of Lance Corporal in 1968. Mr. Leonard then attended Florida State University, earning both a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and a Master of Science degree in School Psychology. He worked for the Hollywood Police Department, then the Florida Department of Health as a Counselor for delinquent minors, and next as a school psychologist for the Duval County School System. After he retired from his career as a real estate investor, Cliff devoted his time to serving others with his gift of sculpting.
Cliff is the embodiment of selfless love and dedication. For the past 12 years, Cliff has unwaveringly devoted countless hours and vast amounts of energy to sculpting life-size busts of fallen Marines and Navy Corpsmen from Florida killed in action in the Middle East and of fellow 3rd Recon Company members killed in Vietnam. Thus far, he has sculpted and memorialized almost 50 Marines and Navy Corpsmen, including several of his brothers killed in Vietnam. He does all of this as a gift, free of charge, as a heartfelt thank you to each family. Through tears, dedication, and duty, he shapes the clay, bringing honor and remembrance with each face that he sculpts. He feels it is his call to duty to honor the dedication and sacrifice of each of these fine men and women. His strong passion and commitment to this cause is undoubtedly evident in the hours he pours into each memorial sculpture.
His respect and gratitude for fellow veterans is evident in just the simple, yet profound act of thanking every veteran who crosses his path. It was at GMC that he learned to take care of family, biological family, but also GMC family and military family. “You stick by those who have stuck by you. It is different than simply being on a team. It’s being on the same squad, same platoon, same company, the same battalion that’s only found at Military Colleges like GMC.” Cliff is a member of the Semper Fidelis Society supporting the military community in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as a lifetime member of the Montford Point Marines, which supports and honors the first black American in the Marine Corps.
Cliff devotes his time as a volunteer counselor at the Montanari Clinical School in Davie, Florida. He does volunteer work and research for Goodwill Industries and the Behavior Analysis Research Associates, both of Tallahassee, Florida. He is a “Big Brother” with Jacksonville, Florida Big Brothers, and a Guardian ad Litem advocating for children in the Duval County Court System. Cliff serves on the Board of Directors for the Yates YMCA in Jacksonville, Florida. He is a patient advocate for the Heart Transplant team at Shands Hospital and also assists with the Dean Ornish Heart Disease Reversal Program and lends support to transplant patients at the Gabriel House at the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic.
Of all the lessons learned at GMC, what resonated most for Cliff is the drive to take control of his life, to not just be a participant in life, but to actively engage. In helping those around him and giving back wherever he sees a need, Cliff is certainly living out this commitment to its fullest.
Cliff and his wife, Linda reside in Jacksonville, Florida and have a daughter, a son, and two grandchildren.
Photo by Will Dickey, Florida Times-Union