General Raymond Thomas Odierno, the 38th Chief of Staff of the United States Army, passed away on Friday, October 8, 2021 in Pinehurst, North Carolina after a brave battle with cancer. He was 67.
Ray Odierno was born on September 8, 1954 in New Jersey to Raymond and Helen Odierno. He was predeceased by his sister Nancy and her husband. He is survived by his wife Linda; children Anthony, Kathrin, and Michael; grandchildren; sister-in-law; cousins; nephews; nieces; great-nephews; and great-nieces. Funeral services will be held privately followed by interment at Arlington National Cemetery. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations in honor of Ray be made to Army Emergency Relief (www.armyemergencyrelief.org).
In 1890, Ray’s great-grandfather Basilio Odierno, along with his wife and children, emigrated from Italy to New York City. Shortly after, the family established a successful butchery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Twenty years later, the Odierno family moved to New Jersey’s Morris County.
Growing up in New Jersey, Ray was a well-known athlete. Winning a baseball state championship at the young age of 13 was one of his earliest and most memorable athletic achievements. Ray attended Morris Hills Regional High School, where he was a nine-time letter winner in three major sports: football, basketball, and baseball. In 1971, his high school football team won the state championship.
Upon graduation from high school, Ray chose to serve his country and entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1972. During his time at West Point, Ray was a member of the football team for two years as well as a pitcher on the baseball team for three years. He graduated in 1976 with a commission in Field Artillery. General Odierno’s military career spanned nearly 40 years, culminating with the honor of serving as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army. From the beginnings of his career during the Cold War with service in the 56th Field Artillery Brigade in United States Army Europe, Ray held numerous assignments including Battery Commander in the 73d Field Artillery, XVIII Airborne Corps and Division Artillery Executive Officer in 3rd Armored Division during Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. He commanded 2d Battalion, 8th Field Artillery, 7th Infantry Division (Light) followed by the Division Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division. In 1997, Ray began his final tour in Europe as Chief of Staff, V Corps, and concluded his assignment as the Assistant Division Commander (Support) for 1st Armored Division and Deputy Commanding General for Task Force Hawk in Albania during the War in Kosovo. In October 2001, General Odierno became the Commanding General of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, which included his deployment to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM from April 2003 through March 2004. Following his successes in division command, General Odierno served as Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acting as the primary military advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell, and later, to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In May 2006, General Odierno became Commanding General of III Corps and Fort Hood. Between 2006 and 2010, his deployment totaled 39 months, first as Commander of Multi National Corps – Iraq (III Corps), followed by Multi-National Force – Iraq, and, finally, United States Forces – Iraq. During his time with III Corps, he was the architect and operational commander of the surge forces. Upon redeployment stateside, he served as the last Commander of United States Joint Forces Command. On September 7, 2011, General Odierno was sworn in as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army. Four years later, his retirement drew his distinguished military career to a close. General Odierno was known for his integrity, loyalty, and dedication to duty. He was a mentor and a natural leader. His courage and humility were an inspiration to both colleagues and friends. General Odierno was a solider’s general, creating relationships built on mutual trust across every field he walked with them. His soldiers were his extended family, and he considered their well-being and development to be the core of his work.
After completing his military service, General Odierno founded the consulting firm Odierno Associates, LLC. Through his role as President, he held advisory positions to the senior executives of JPMorgan Chase & Company, Teneo Holdings, LLC, Genworth Financial, and the National Football League. His lifelong passion for sports led him to become Chairman and Alternate Governor of the Florida Panthers Hockey Team, Chairman of the Board of USA Football, and a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee for two years. General Odierno also served on the company boards of Honeywell International Inc., Oshkosh Corporation, and Enact Holdings, Inc. He was a member of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Visitors at North Carolina State University. General Odierno’s decision to devote his life to the service of others continued in his post-military endeavors as a board member for several non-profit organizations including the Mission Continues, the Institute of World Politics, and the Patriot Foundation.
Ray Odierno earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from West Point, a Master of Science in Nuclear Effects Engineering from North Carolina State University, and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from North Carolina State University, an honorary degree of Laws Honoris Causa from the Institute of World Politics, and an honorary degree of Military Science from Norwich University.
Among his countless accomplishments, Ray’s 45-year marriage to his high school sweetheart Linda stands as his most treasured achievement. A proud family man, Ray was happiest when surrounded by the people he loved. Watching sporting events, bonding over a round of golf, or playing a competitive card game at home were among his favorite pastimes with family and friends. Ray treasured the dining experience, relishing the great conversations, laughter, and meals with family and friends whenever he could. Raymond Thomas Odierno left an enduring legacy for the United States Army. His contribution to our country will always be felt. Our nation and our Army are stronger because of his selfless service. Knowing him was a privilege, and although he departed this world too soon, he left an indelible mark on so many lives. General Raymond Thomas Odierno was, and will always be, Army Strong.
Online condolences may be made to www.bolesfuneralhome.com
Services entrusted to Boles Funeral Home of Pinehurst.