The Cleveland family of Spring Valley has a long and rich relationship with the military.
Patriarch of the the family, George Cleveland, was unable to enlist in the military during World War II due to a disability caused by a bout with polio when he was a child. He did, however, serve an enlistment with the Civilian Conservation Corps as a young man. “The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal,” states Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia.
Mr. Cleveland married and spent his life working hard at various jobs while he and his wife, Edith, raised eight children. Since they also did foster care, sometimes as many as 13 children found “home” with the Clevelands. Their biological children are: Leroy, James, Herbert (Gene), Patricia, Evelyn, Nelda, Gerald (Jerry), and Kenneth.
Being a patriotic family, it’s no surprise that five of the Cleveland children, the five sons of George and Edith, entered the United States Military.
Eldest son, Leroy Cleveland, enlisted in the Navy in the 1950s. Because he was under the legal age to enlist, his recruiter had to get special permission from his mother to allow the enlistment. Leroy traveled all over the world during his 21 years as a sailor. He visited countries in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean Sea. While in the Navy, he served on every type of ship in existence except submarines. Aircraft carriers, destroyers, and mine sweepers were among the ships Leroy called home. His family still retains a few of the articles he obtained during his world travels. Leroy spent an additional 20 years working for the Department of Defense before retirement in Virginia. Following in his father’s footsteps, Leroy’s son, Mike, also committed 20 years of service to the US Navy.
Second son, James Cleveland, worked on a commercial tug boat which during war time would have been considered the Merchant Marines. Unfortunately, he died as the result of an accident while on duty during his first trip down the Mississippi River in 1959.
Gene Cleveland, third son of George and Edith Cleveland, enlisted in the Air Force soon after graduation in 1964. Gene was stationed in Texas and Mississippi before being sent to Japan. Upon return to the States, he was stationed in Oregon. Using his military training, he worked for Harvey Aluminum and the Army Corps of Engineers. Still living in Oregon, Gene has retired but still does disaster relief for the Corps on occasion.
Gerald, “Jerry” Cleveland, son number four, joined the Air Force in 1969. Initially stationed in Texas, Jerry states, “I didn’t even want to go to the east coast, much less go overseas. As luck would have it, I did two overseas tours back to back.” His first overseas journey took him to Okinawa, one of the southernmost islands of Japan, followed by an assignment near Istanbul, Turkey, where he spent nearly two years. Upon return, he said, “ It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. The work was not exciting, but the travel was great. Getting to know how other people in the world live was an education in itself. I used my G.I. to help with tuition and worked enough to be the first member of my family to get a college degree.” Jerry graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Ag Education, then taught school and worked for the United States Postal Service.
Ken, the Clevelands’ youngest son, was in the Army, where he worked as a truck driver. He is now retired and living in Spring Valley.
George and Edith’s three daughters were not enlisted in the military, however, Pat’s husband was in the Army and Evelyn’s husband was in the Navy, so Veterans Day has special meaning. This family is just one example of the way citizens are able to serve their country.