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Joplin Journal Obituary for Fallen Hero
US ARMY SSGT John J. Cleaver
SSGT John James Cleaver, member of the 1-508 PIR, E-Co, 4 BCT, 82nd Airborne, age 36, was killed in action at FOB Ballard, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, at 2:30 a.m. CST on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009. John was born on Oct. 25, 1973, in Joplin. He was a member of South Joplin Christian Church. He attended Eastmorland Elementary, North Middle School and Galena High School. He also attended Henderson State University and Crowder College. During this time he was a volunteer firefighter for Carl Junction, and was employed at Olive Garden as a waiter and bartender. He joined the Navy in 1995, in damage control which involved nuclear, chemical, biological and fire warfare. He was stationed on the U.S.S. Inchon in Ingleside, Texas, and had the opportunity to see the world. After serving in the war in Kosovo, he was moved to Norfolk, Va., as a fire-fighting instructor. After a trip to Seattle, to help set up a fire training school, he decided to transfer there with his family and was stationed on the U.S.S. Rodney M. Davis. During his tour of duty, he was deployed to Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served 10 years in the Navy and left with the rank of a petty officer. A list of his honors at the end of his Navy career include: Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star for 2nd award, Navy Battle "E" with silver wreath for four or more awards, Kosovo Liberation Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, NATO Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Navy Good Conduct Medal with two bronze stars for 2nd and 3rd award, Iraq Campaign Medal, Naval Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with bronze stars for 2nd, 3rd and 4th award, NATO Kosovo Medal, Navy Unit Commendation with bronze star for 2nd award, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Naval Reserve Sea Service Medal, Navy Pistol Medal with silver E for expert. He chose to enlist in the Army. After his basic training in White Sands, N.M., he was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, for his schooling as a convoy commander. His next duty station would be as staff sergeant at Fort Bragg, N.C. He made his home in Fayetteville, N.C. He was deployed for his first tour of duty to Kandahar, Afghanistan, shortly after arriving. He worked as a convoy commander and as a medic. When he returned he was able to complete his training as a paratrooper and received his wings. He subsequently had been working on his jumps to become a master jumper. He also completed all of the tests to have the job of medic listed on his DOS. In July 2009, he was sent as part of the forward operating party to FOB Apache, Afghanistan. The rest of his unit deployed a month later. John was not planning to come home for the holidays because he felt he was needed there. On Thursday, about an hour after President Hamid Karzi was sworn into office, John and a fellow paratrooper were killed by a suicide bomber. His family has been notified John will be receiving the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. They do not have a list of the other honors which he has received since joining the 82nd Airborne. Survivors include two sons, Collin Cleaver and Aidan Cleaver and their mother Kim Cleaver, Raleigh, N.C.; his father and mother, Ronald and Teresa Cleaver, Joplin; one brother, Ron Cleaver, Topeka; one sister, Rhonda Cleaver, Salida, Colo.; a great-uncle, Ben Frie, Kansas City; and two aunts, Joan Cleaver, Joplin, and Candy Lewis, Smithville, Va. He is also survived by five cousins, Travis Schuler, Perry, Kan., Cassandra Ryder, Carrollton, Va., and Jason Schuler, Marie Price and Allison West, of DeSoto, Kan. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, John Harold and Margaret Poole and Leroy Cleaver, all of Joplin; and his great-aunt, Sylvia Kingfisher; and great-uncle, Johnny Poole. Two cousins also preceded him in death, Duke Gust and Robert Wayne Gust. Funeral services will be held at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29, at Galena High School Auditorium with Rev. Jill Cameron Michel officiating. The family will receive friends from 2:30 p.m. Sunday until service time at the auditorium. Following the service and military honors, the body will be cremated under the direction of Parker Mortuary. Memorial contributions may be made to one of three charities, the John Cleaver Memorial Fund for Wounded Soldiers, the Galena Board of Education John Cleaver Memorial, or to South Joplin Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in care of Parker Mortuary. Online condolences may be made at parkermortuary.com