Major General John Cleland - US Army (Retired)- Melbourne, FL

INTRODUCTION John R. D. Cleland retired from the United States Army after a distinguished career of thirty seven years. He entered the Army in 1944 as a private and, after serving in three wars, retired as a Major General in 1980. Retirement from the Army did not stop John from continuing to serve his country and the State of Florida after he became a full time Florida resident in 1983.


  • High School, Woodrow Wilson High School, Washington D.C., 1943
  • After WWII and the Korean War he took night courses to obtain a Bachelors and then a Masters Degree while serving in the U.S. Army
  • Bachelor General Education, University Of Omaha, 1962
  • Masters Degree Political Science, George Washington University, 1966

Significant Military Education:

  • Infantry Officers Candidate School
  • 1944, Infantry Officers Advanced Course
  • 1954, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College
  • 1958, U.S. Army War College, 1966



From 1944 to 1980 John Cleland achieved incredible success in the U.S. Army going from a Private to a Major General based on his own hard work and pushing himself to do more than was required. He fought as a parachute infantry unit commander in WW II, Korea and Vietnam and is a Master Parachutist. He was wounded in Korea in 1951 and in Vietnam in 1968. He served as an instructor at the Army Infantry School in 1953 and in 1954-55 was Range Officer in Germany in charge of a 25 square mile firing range conducting live firing weapons. He taught Special Warfare at the Army Command and General Staff College from 1959 through 1961. As Operations Officer for the 82nd Airborne Division he was responsible for training 15,000 airborne soldiers at Ft. Bragg, NC from 1966 through 1967. The division earned the highest rating that could be achieved. From 1972 to 1974 he was chief of U.S. Mission to Cambodia and was Commanding General of the 8th Infantry in Germany from 1975 to 1977. His last two years prior to retirement were as Director of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command. His most significant military medals include: Army Distinguished Service with Oak Leaf Cluster, Silver Star, The Legion of Merit with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantry Badge (WWII, Korea, Vietnam) and Master Parachutist Badge.

Civilian Employment:

1983-2002: While living in Florida, John worked as a Consultant for Burdeshaw Associates, Bethesda, MD. The company conducted strategic planning, market analysis, acquisition strategy, management assessment, technical and engineering services for clients in pursuit of government markets. John was involved in almost 20 different team projects ranging in length from several weeks to two years. Examples of a few of John’s accomplishments: winning a contract for Grumman corporation for the integrated field test equipment for the Ml tank; providing analysis and methods for corrective action enabling AM General Corporation to continue producing the Humvee vehicle for the Army. At an International Court of Arbitration hearing in Paris, John, as expert witness and team leader, provided valuable testimony for the International law firm of Clifford Chance. The UK firm they represented was seeking to recover monetary losses incurred in 1979 when the Iranian Revolutionary Government cancelled a contract for the purchase of British Tanks. The UK firm recovered 50% of its losses.


Military Officers Association of America, Cape Canaveral Chapter (MOAACC) 1983 to 2017

John joined the chapter soon after he arrived in Brevard County in 1983 and was elected President the following year. His first action was to connect the small chapter with civilian and other military communities in Brevard broadening the base to work on matters of mutual concern. This action more than doubled the membership and eventually it became the second largest and the most active chapter in the country promoting two of MOAA’S main purposes: protecting the rights and interests of all members of the uniformed services, their families and survivors, and supporting their communities and the nation. Over the years John has served on the Board of Directors, as well as Awards Chairman and Legislative Affairs Chairman. He is still a member of the latter committee and continues to meet regularly with our local U. S. Representative to Congress and local Senators and Representatives to Florida State Legislature. John remains active in the chapter and still chairs the Gold Bar Program and personally presents 2nd Lt Gold Bars on Army ROTC Graduates at Florida Institute of Technology. He has received every award MOAACC presents to its members including the MOAACC Distinguished Service Award which is presented with a medal to only one individual each year. In 2010 at a Past Presidents Dinner, the MOAACC Board presented John with a special two feet high gold colored “Trophy Cup” for his exemplary service to the chapter in the preceding 27 years.

John spent the years from 1990 to 1996 part time in Washington D.C. as a member of the Board of Directors of TROA, the national organization now known as the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). While there his most significant contribution was as Chairman of the Government Relations Committee (1992-1996) which is responsible for policy and programs that govern MOAA’s relations and interactions with the Congress, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Recognizing the power of the new Internet and email John’s committee helped establish rapid and mass communication with those organizations and also with the more than 400 chapters throughout the country to aid in getting grass roots backing for the many issues of concern to military members, both retired and active duty throughout the country. John’s efforts contributed to Congress mandating COLA for all military retirees and establishing the Tri-Care for Life medical program for almost 1 million military retired veterans over 65, of which nearly 90,000 live in Florida. While John was Committee Chair, MOAA took the lead in forming a Military Coalition encompassing almost all major national veterans organizations to assist in speaking with one voice on Veteran’s issues. This Military Coalition is still active today. John supported the annual “Storm the Hill” event where State Council Chairmen of MOAA visit Washington, D.C. and with members of national MOAA visit every member of Congress and brief them on issues considered to be most critical to veterans. During this period John was also instrumental in getting the Viera VA Outpatient Clinic placed in Brevard County to serve the over 100,000 veterans in the area.


  • Board of Trustees, Cape Canaveral Hospital Foundation 1984-88 John, as a Board Member, made significant inputs at Board meetings concerning current operations, as well as planning and funding decisions for the expansion of the hospital during that period of time.
  • Advisor to Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) ROTC Panther Battalion 1984 to 2013 John became advisor to the Panther Battalion Professor of Military Science in 1984. Since then he has given numerous talks and lectures to the ROTC cadets, served as the guest speaker at commissioning ceremonies, and provided assistance when asked. For example, his support was deemed a key factor in the approval of a $932,000 government grant in 2011 which moved the Panther Battalion headquarters, offices and classrooms from a basement to a new building.
  • He sponsored the Chinese Bugle Leadership award which is given annually to a deserving cadet. He also started a Gold Bar Program which provided each newly commissioned Second Lieutenant from FIT with a set of Gold Bars and Shoulder Marks. This program has been expanded and is now sponsored by MOAA National for all Colleges and Universities with ROTC programs around the country. In recognition of his services to FIT, John received a bronze figure of an Eagle taking flight on an engraved base in 2008 and a framed picture of the graduating class in 2010.
  • Support for Construction of a New Brevard County Detention Center. 1984-1985
  • The ground breaking ceremony for the current Brevard County Detention Center was held on February 12, 1985. John was present for this ceremony as an active supporter of the construction of this much needed facility. He gave formal and informal talks and provided full support to this successful effort. In recognition of his service he was presented with a large old fashioned jail key mounted on a wooden plaque with an inscribed brass plate and a letter of thanks.
  • Speaker on National Defense, Leadership, War Experiences, Patriotism, American Values and Threats to America. 1983 to 2013
  • John gave on the average one talk per month on the above subjects. The audiences for these talks range from the United States Army Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia to elementary school classes in Brevard County, including civic, patriotic and government organizations. Recognition of these talks has been expressed in various ways. A framed Roman Gladiator short sword and scabbard mounted on a wooden plaque was presented by the Army Officer Candidate School; a bronze statue of a Mustang on an engraved base from Merritt Island High School; an American Flag with inscribed bronze plate from Cocoa Beach High School; an inscribed heavy duty plastic tray from the Brevard County Association of Chiefs of Police and most treasured, a packet of thank you letters written to him by each student in a class he spoke to at Williams Elementary School in Viera, Florida.
  • Board of Directors of the Brevard Arts Council. (Now called Brevard Cultural Alliance) 1985-1990 John’s contributions to this board which brought the Arts and Culture to Brevard were many. He served as secretary for two years and then assumed responsibility for a foundering grants program. Working with the Brevard County Commission, he developed standard procedures for determining County funds available to the Arts Council and methods of distributing funds to applicants in the Arts community. He personally chaired a panel which reviewed written applications for funds and then, in open forum, listened to presentations by each of the applying arts organizations which ranged from theaters and art museums to dance schools. This procedure took favoritism out of the selection process.
  • Commodore and Board of Governors Eau Gallie Yacht Club. 1986-1991 John joined the Eau Gallie Yacht Club shortly after he settled in Brevard County. He soon became active in the club and was elected to the Board of Governors. The Board then started a remodeling program to upgrade the club’s interior and exterior. The work was done and the loan was paid off in five years without an assessment. During his tenure, the membership increased and the club became financially sound. Under John’s leadership the Board initiated a summer youth program for children and grandchildren of members which consisted of tennis, swimming and sailing lessons and competitions in the three sports. The program has expanded significantly over the years and remains popular with the parents and the children. He also served as the Tennis Committee Chairman, Fleet Captain, Vice Commodore as well as Commodore.Committee to Preserve the Grand Canal 1991- 1992
  • John was part of a committee formed to prevent construction of a fixed bridge over the Grand Canal in Brevard County. The Grand Canal is a designated navigable waterway. The County had approved plans of the developer of Lansing Island which called for a fixed bridge to be built over the Grand Canal so as to connect Lansing Island with the barrier island city of Indian Harbor Beach. A fixed bridge would block much of the boat traffic on the Grand Canal and the Grand Canal would no longer be a navigable waterway. The situation was finally resolved with a trip to the Seventh Coast Guard District headquarters in Miami and a visit with the District Commander. The developer was required to build a drawbridge over the Grand Canal which remains a navigable Florida waterway to this day. In September of 2020, the bridge was named after John.
  • Board of Overseers, Florida Tech School of Business 1992-2002 John considered his role on the Board was to raise the stature of the School of Business in the academic world as well as within the University itself and to attract high caliber students. John recommended and the school implemented a Distinguished Lecturer Program which brought in one distinguished business leader each year who gave presentations to the school’s student body and local business leaders. Distinguished Lecturers included Norman Augustine, then Chairman and CEO of Martin Marietta and Dave Thomas the founder, Chairman and CEO of Wendy’s. The program was a hit with the students, faculty and local business leaders. John was also responsible for the implementation of an annual High School Ethics Competition. Each high school in Brevard County was invited to enter a team in the competition. The teams were given a business ethics situation to resolve and each team presented its solution to a panel of judges. The ethics situation was taken from an actual case that had been resolved by the corporation involved. Judges were members of the Board of Overseers and faculty. This competition proved to be very popular, has been improved and expanded over the years and is still going strong. In recognition of his services John was presented with an engraved wooden plaque and a judge’s gavel on a square engraved base.


  • For support of the construction of a new Detention Center, an old fashioned Jail Key mounted on a Wooden Plaque with an inscribed brass plate and a letter of thanks. 1985
  • Brevard Arts Council Award, a handsome pen and engraved pen holder. 1990
  • TROA (Predecessor of MOAA) Special Service Award for six years on the BoD of the National Organization, an engraved silver champagne bucket (1996) and a carved glass eagle head sculpture. 1997
  • Distinguished Service Award, the highest award the Cape Canaveral Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America can bestow. 1997
  • Board of Overseer at Florida Tech School of Business Award, judges’ gavel on a square engraved base (1999) and an Engraved wooden plaque. 2002
  • ROTC Panther Battalion Award in recognition for Support of FIT Army ROTC program. Presented a bronze figure of an eagle taking flight on an engraved base (2008) and a framed picture of the graduating class of 2010.
  • MOAACC BoD Award for over twenty five years of exemplary service to MOAACC, a Trophy Cup, two feet tall, gold colored with eagle on top. 2010
  • Brevard Veterans Council Distinguished Service Award Bronze Medallion. 2012
  • As a public speaker on various subjects, John received a framed Roman Gladiator short sword and scabbard mounted on a wooden plaque from the Army Officer Candidate School; a bronze statue of a Mustang on an engraved base from Merritt Island High School, an American Flag with inscribed bronze plate from Cocoa Beach High School, an inscribed tray from the Brevard County Association of Chiefs of Police and most treasured, a packet of thank you letters written by each student in a class he spoke to at Williams Elementary School in Viera, Florida. 1983 to 2017


John Cleland became a resident of Florida in 1983. His military mind and enthusiasm to contribute to the local community and the State of Florida took charge immediately. He played a significant part in hospital expansion providing Florida citizens wherever they lived with access to better medical care. His successful endeavors in aiding the Army ROTC Battalion at FIT with talks on Leadership, National Defense and American values and assisting in obtaining a new Army ROTC Cadet facility for the school promoted Florida as a source of Army commissioning. The support he provided for the new Detention Center provided security for both the State of Florida and Brevard County. As a speaker on National Defense, John expressed the importance of a strong military to promote security for it citizens. His work with the Brevard Art Council benefitted artists and art patrons all over Florida. John’s contributions brought the Military Officers Association of America to prominence in Florida and the United States. National MOAA Headquarters tout the Cape Canaveral Chapter in Florida as an example for chapters nationwide to follow. He has diligently followed the charter of MOAA by playing an active role in military personnel matters and especially proposed legislation affecting the career force, the retired community and all veterans of the uniformed services.

While on the Board of the Eau Gallie Yacht Club, John successfully started a program for children and adults to promote competitive sports in Central Florida. The Committee to preserve the Grand Canal succeeded in preserving the canal as a navigable Florida Waterway to the benefit of Florida boaters. Important also are the accomplishments of John on The Board of Overseers for Florida Tech School of Business. John’s efforts have given young Florida students the challenge of solving an ethical business problem, as well as introducing them to successful businessmen and entrepreneurs from Florida and the nation. In addition to the service to civic and military organizations, he has still found time to participate as a leader in his local homeowners associations, his church and as a speaker at countless patriotic events. He has been generous with his time and expertise for the benefit of Floridians of all ages and especially the veterans.
John, now in his 86th year, has not stopped. He is still active on the MOAACC Legislative Committee meeting with both State and Federal Congressmen on issues important to veterans and he continues on the lecture circuit promoting Leadership, Patriotism, American Values and above all a love of God and Country; those values which make Florida a great state.
For all these reasons I believe John R. D. Cleland, a dedicated Florida resident and veteran deserves to be in the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.