Gate guard's greetings glisten
David Cleveland works Monday through Friday at Gate 8 and is known as one of the friendliest guards on Redstone Arsenal. (Photo Credit: Erin Elise) VIEW ORIGINAL

Gate guard David Cleveland makes the most of his job each day by being extra friendly.

Cleveland, who has worked at Gate 8 for more than two years, spent over three decades in law enforcement, where his contacts weren’t always the nicest of people.

At the Arsenal, his main duties are checking identification before allowing entry on post.

It could get monotonous, said Cleveland, 61, if not for a game he plays.

It isn’t enough to ask everyone to “have a good day” as he waves them on. He uses alliteration, adjectives and enthusiasm.

“Let me try and make some words up and see if people notice,” Cleveland recalled saying to himself.

He began asking people to have a motivational Monday. Tremendous Tuesday. Whimsical Wednesday. On a recent cold day, Thermal Thursday. Phenomenal Friday. And so on.

“People started catching on to it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Cleveland enjoys seeing people’s facial expressions change with his friendly and positive message. Even better is when they tell him he has brightened their spirits.

“When people say ‘Hey, you make my day,’ that’s the reward,” he said.

Cleveland has even learned some sign language so he can “talk” to personnel with hearing impairments.

“I have learned to sign ‘good morning,’ ‘have a good day,’ as well as a few holiday greetings,” he said.

A native of Mobile, Cleveland worked for 10 years as a police officer in North Dakota and 21 years for the Department of Corrections in Alaska.

He became widowed seven years ago, and five years ago traveled to visit his mother in Mobile and vacation with his children at Dauphin Island.

He met a woman named Hannah while walking on the beach.

“I wasn’t looking for anybody. We just met. The sparks flew,” Cleveland said.

Within two years, he was retired, married to Hannah, currently the Science Applications International Corporation contract manager for NASA’s Enterprise Applications Support Technologies 2, and living in her hometown of Grant.

He got the job as a Redstone gate guard and signed a three-year contract.

“Everybody hates coming to work. I love this job,” he said. “In my 30 years (in law enforcement), I came into contact with every kind of attitude you could imagine. I had to learn how to talk to people.”

As a police officer, when he had to write someone a ticket, rather than insulting them by wishing them a good day, “I said ‘I hope you have a ‘better’ day,’” he said.

Lt. Charles King, Cleveland’s supervisor, said with some 40 guards working the gates on post, he is still understaffed.

Many guards put in a lot of overtime, including Cleveland, who stays positive “99.9 percent of the time,” King said. “He’s open, he’s friendly. He doesn’t let bad attitudes get to him.”

Together, Cleveland and his wife have seven children (the youngest is almost 10; the oldest is 37) and three grandchildren.

The family enjoys camping, caring for their 70-acre property and working out at the gym.

“I’ve got to stay young for these 10-year-olds,” he said.