By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Regional Health Command Europe)August 6, 2018
For most, retirement means taking it easy, slowing down or relaxing by the pool. It doesn't usually include joining the Army, completing initial entry training and deploying to Afghanistan.
But for Staff Sgt. Daniel Cleveland, Regional Health Command Europe Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment Sergeant, this is exactly what his retirement looks like.
Cleveland, who is a dental specialist in the Army, joined after retiring from an 18-year career in law enforcement.
About four months into his retirement, Cleveland recalled sitting by the pool with his wife who told him, "you need to do something."
"Ok, I've cut the grass. I've helped you in the house. I'm kind of relaxing by the pool," Cleveland said. "She said, 'no. You need to get a job!'"
That is when Cleveland proposed the idea of joining the Army - at that time he was 38 years old.
"I asked her what she thought about the idea of me joining the Army," he said.
"She said, 'where in the heck did that come from?'"
Cleveland, whose step-father was in the Army and grew up as a military "brat," had always thought about joining the military.
He put that on hold though when he was offered a job by the local Sheriff to work in the detention center.
"I started working in the jail, and I was having fun," he said. "I was able to try and make a difference in these people's lives -- you tried to make sure they were on the right path whenever they got out."
From there, Cleveland worked his way up. After the detention center, he worked as a radio dispatcher and from there, he went to the police academy.
During his time as an officer, he started as a patrol deputy and went on to work undercover investigations and property crimes. He also became certified as a homicide investigator and a crime scene technician. Cleveland culminated his career in law enforcement as chief of police.
Once he retired from the police force, he was able to explore the idea of joining the Army again.
But his wife had one more question, "she asked me, 'do you think you can do it?'" Cleveland recalled. "There was no doubt in my mind I could do it. But she reminded me that most of the other Soldiers would be much younger than me and that I would have to run and jump, but I was pretty sure I could still do it."
So with his wife's support, he went to a recruiter and signed up to work in explosive ordnance disposal.
"Initially, they said I could be a [Military Police officer], but I didn't want to do that. I wanted to do something different," Cleveland said.
Cleveland went to Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
"I was on my last day of basic training when I was told that my security clearance didn't go through, and it would take about six months to rebut it," he said. "They told me I could stay there until it was approved, or I could reclassify."
Not wanting to sit around, Cleveland said he would be interested in a medical military occupational specialty.
"They told me they had dental available, and I told them I think my hands are too big, I might not be a good dentist -- because I thought that is what I would be doing."
Once they explained to him what a dental specialist actually does, Cleveland said he thought it was a good opportunity to try something different.
"I was really looking at being an [emergency medical technician] or a medic, but it wasn't available, so I decided to give dental a try, and that is how I became a dental specialist with a top secret clearance."
Cleveland finished his initial entry training and headed off to his first assignment at Fort Hood, Texas where he joined the 502nd Dental Company, Area Support, 1st Medical Brigade -- which was getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan.
As much as Cleveland wanted to deploy, he said he had a lot of mixed emotions. He and his wife arrived at Fort Hood less than a year before he deployed. On top of that, he and his wife were expecting.
"When I deployed, my daughter was nine weeks old," he said.
At the time Cleveland was getting ready to deploy, he was also facing some medical challenges.
"First, I had hernia surgery," Cleveland said. "I was scared to death they were going to take me off the deployment list -- so three days later I was back out there trying to get ready."
Fast forward to the week of deployment, Cleveland then developed gout in his foot.
Gout, according to the Center for Disease Control, "is a common form of arthritis that usually affects one joint at a time (often the big toe joint) and is very painful."
"I could hardly put my boot on, much less walk, I just knew then they were going to take me off [the deployment list]," Cleveland said. "So I didn't tell anybody."
When he made it to Afghanistan, he had to walk to the hospital, which was a mile away.
"I remember hobbling to get there, but once I got there, I saw a provider who prescribed some medication and within hours it was gone," he said. "But I was so scared to say anything because I didn't want to be taken off the deployment list."
Through it all, Cleveland never questioned his decision to join the Army.
"I love to lead and mentor younger people."
And now he hopes to continue to do that for as long as he can.
"I love the military…it is all based on my old body. If my body will hold out, I will stay as long as the Army will have me," Cleveland said. "I thoroughly enjoy it. I have bad days - everybody does."
But on those bad days, Cleveland falls back on the tools the Army has provided him to get through those tougher time.
"I really believe in [Master Resiliency Training]," he said. "I try my best to 'hunt the good stuff.' I think your [attitude] can enhance others and I try to be that person to put a smile on someone's face."