Retired Navy Command Master Chief Larry Dean Rhea Sr. peacefully passed away in his sleep on December 26th, 2021, at the age of 79. He was in New York City enjoying the holidays with his family and grandchildren. A soft-spoken, selfless, and noble man, Command Master Chief Rhea dedicated his life to serving his country, his family, and his faith to the Lord.
Larry Rhea, son of Admiral Dewey and Grace Gertrude (Sawyer) Rhea, grew up in Dallas City, IL and at the age of 18 enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he served a highly decorated 32-year career. He graduated from the U.S. Army’s Sergeant Major Academy, class Fifteen, and served numerous and varied assignments including: Command Master Chief of the Naval Air Station in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania; Officer – in-Charge of the Naval Reserve Force Detachment Management School; Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Surface Readiness, Chief of Naval Reserve; and the Staffs of Commander, Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region twenty-second district. Master Chief Rhea also served an unprecedented four-year term on the Secretary of the Navy’s National Naval Reserve Policy Board (1982-1985).
In November of 1986 Master Chief Rhea reported as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs in which he represented the 1.6 million enlisted men and women of the seven national guard and reserve components (Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Naval Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and Cost Guard Reserve). His position was the highest-ranking reserve component for an enlisted individual within the Department of Defense.
Master Chief Rhea received many awards throughout his career including and most notably: The Defense Superior Service Medal, The Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal (two awards), Navy Commendation Medal (three awards), Navy Good Conduct Medal (seven awards), National Defense Service Medal (two awards), Coast Guard Commendation Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
He married Wanda Ann (Johnson) Rhea in 1985 and post his retirement from the Navy in April of 1992, Larry continued to serve his country by lobbying on Capitol Hill for quality-of-life issues as well as for the physical and mental health well-being of current and former enlisted service members and their families through his work with the Non-Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA) and the Association of Service-Disabled Veterans (ASDV).
In 2005, Larry was diagnosed with gastric (stomach) cancer which he valiantly fought to overcome but was later diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) in 2017. Larry enjoyed fishing and hunting growing up and later in life the simple past times of a good book, cup of coffee, and bowl of ice cream. He was a fully devoted member of Faith Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, VA and cherished his time with his family and grandkids.
Predeceased by his two brothers D. Douglas and James S. and his sister M. Louise, he is survived by his wife Wanda A. Rhea, son Larry D. Rhea Jr., daughter-in-law Kristin M. Rhea, granddaughter Lyla E. Rhea, grandson Jayden J. Rhea, brother David L. Rhea, sister Shirley J. Hubbs, and son from prior marriage Matthew Rhea, daughter-in-law Maria Rhea, and grandchildren, Zachary Rhea, Nichole Rhea, and Rebecca Rhea Hilton.
In lieu of flowers, please send gifts with a note of “In memory of Command Master Chief Larry D. Rhea” to the Walter Reed Society Inc. https://www.walterreedsociety.org/donate/default.aspx in honor of the world-class medical care he received at Walter Reed Medical center to support service members and their families in need of financial assistance for unexpected patient care or to the “Larry D. Rhea Memorial” at Faith Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, VA faithva.org/give in honor of his loyalty to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who gave him everlasting strength.
A private burial service will be held in the coming months at Arlington National Cemetery due to Covid-19 delays.
To plant a tree in memory of Larry Dean Rhea Sr., please click here.
Walter Reed Society, Inc.
8901 Rockville Pike, Box 303, Bethesda MD 20889
In memory of Command Master Chief Larry D. Rhea
Faith Baptist Church
4105 Plank Road, Fredericksburg VA 22407
Larry D. Rhea Memorial