Retirement Date: June 1, 1979 (Medical)
Number of Years of Service: 22 years, 2 months
Deceased: May 11, 2019
Branches: Infantry, Special Forces
Wife’s Name: Doris; 8 Children; 14 Grandchildren; 5 Great Grandchildren
City and State: Redding, California
Awards & Military Honors: Vietnamese Ranger Badge, British Para Wings, French Master Parachutist Wings, German Master Parachutist Wings, Vietnamese Master Parachutist Wings, U.S. Master Parachutist Wings, Special Forces Combat Patch, Special Forces TAB, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Saint Phillip of Neri Medal, Vietnamese Civic Action Honor Medal, Vietnamese Gallantry Cross, Meritorious Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Citation, Presidential Unit Citation, Expert Badge in M1, M14, M16, 45 Cal., 30 Cal. MG, Browning BAR; Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal w/6 Stars; Vietnam Honor Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal w/ hour glass; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal w/ bronze star; Army of Occupation Medal for Berlin; National Defense Service Medal; Good Conduct Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry w/ 2 silver stars for Heroism; Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry w/ Palm for Heroism; Army Commendation Medal w/ Oak Leaf Cluster; Air Medal, Purple Heart w/ 2nd Oak Leaf Cluster; Bronze Star w/ Oak Leaf Cluster; Bronze Star w/ “V” device, Soldiers Medal for Heroism; Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Honors: Inducted into the Infantry OCS Hall of Fame at Fort Benning in April 2016.
Civilian Honors: Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor, Ohio Medal of Valor, 1973 American Citizen of the Year, Berlin; Kentucky Colonel, by order of Gov. Nunn (67), TROA Award of Excellence, MOAA National President’s Award, Shasta County California Veteran of the Year (91), Redding California Civic and Veteran of the Year (93), Special Olympics Certificates of Appreciation.
Civilian Appointments and Memberships: Chairman of the Board, Victory Ensured Through Service; President, SFA Chapter 89 for Northern California, Northwest Nevada, and Southwest Oregon, Consultant to the Northern California Veterans Home Commission, appointed by the CA Governor to the Northern California Veterans Cemetery Support Commission and sits on the Monuments and Memorials Sub-committee. Member of Elks, Moose, Master Mason, Noble in the Shrine, member of the First Special Forces Regiment. Life member of the Special Forces Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, VVA, Victory Ensured Through Service (V.E.T.S.), MOAA, and the Berlin Veterans Association.
Published credits in U.S. Army: (1) “Combat in Cities” United States Infantry School & Berlin Combat in Cities Doctrine. Wrote doctrine and helped design Berlin Combat in Cities Training Center. (2) “Garden Plot,” 82nd Airborne Division Combat Reaction Plan; (3) “Berlin’s Anti Terrorism Program,” (4) “Special Forces Operations & Intelligence Training Program” (O & I School), a complete rewrite of the SF O & I program. (5) “United States Army Infantry School Operations & Intelligence Program (NCO Shake and Bake Course).
Civilian Degrees: Holder of five college degrees.
Summary of Assignments: John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, Special Forces Training Group Airborne – Assistant Adjutant, Selected as U.S. Special Forces Commander BG Stillwell’s Aide de Camp. Went to SFOC Course. (31542), Commanding Officer, “A’ Company Special Forces Training Group Airborne, Committee Chief, Special Forces Operations and Intelligence Committee (O&I).
John was asked by the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia to provide them with the outline of the old “Conventional SF O&I POI Course.” He prepared a course outline and then gave the Infantry School the entire POI from the old SF O&I program and this became the “Shake and Bake” school at Fort Benning, Ga.
5th Special Forces Group Airborne – XO, 5th Ranger Company B -55, DELTA Project, XO, Commanding Officer Special Forces Operational Alfa Team, A-222 Dong Tre (wounded three times at Dong Tre), Hospital Camp Drake Japan, PRU Project Phoenix Nha Trang, Commanding Officer Special Forces Operational Alfa Team, A-102 Tien Phuoc (wounded three times at Tien Phuoc), 5th Special Forces Group Airborne Briefing Officer, Aide to Colonel “Iron Mike” Healy, RVN AST Officer 5th Special Forces Group. John served as a Special Forces Executive Officer and Commander of a Special Forces “A” Team in Combat in 1966, 67, 68, and 69.
7thSFGA,SD to XVIII Airborne Corps to assist Lt. General Emerson in starting the XVIII Airborne Corps Pro Life Program.
82nd Airborne– Commanding Officer Hqrs and Hqrs Company 2nd Battalion 508th Airborne Infantry, Operations Officer (S3) 1st Battalion 504th Airborne Infantry Battalion, Operations Officer (S3) 2nd Battalion 508th Airborne Infantry Battalion
Berlin, Germany – Operations Officer (S3) 2nd Battalion 6th United States Infantry, Senior Aide de Camp, United States Commander of Berlin (Major General Wm. Cobb)
XVIII Airborne Corps – worked for Lt. General Hank Emerson, establishing the XVIII Airborne Corps Pro Life Program.
Medical Holding Company and Retirement after MEB determined John’s degree of permanent disability. Medical Retirement on 1 June, 1979.
Jobs/Profession following military: John was forced into medical retirement in 1979 because of his combat injuries. This did not stop John from “Getting Involved” with veterans immediately. He also kept very involved with his first love children and served on the District Council of Boy Scouts in North Carolina for over 10 years and volunteered each summer as a Counselor or Director for scouting and youth summer camps on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 1979-80 John set up the First Special Olympics in Central North Carolina and personally managed and supported the Special Olympics effort for three years and was honored for his very special effort.
John has worked tirelessly for over 35 years, day and night, 7 days a week helping veterans and their dependants since his retirement. He literally dedicated his life to veterans advocacy after he left military service. He has spearheaded programs as the chairman, co-chairman, president, and mind-trust or has sat on boards of directors in efforts to support veterans, veteran health care, veterans programs, veterans’ legislation and events. He has advised local, state and federal politicians and bureaucrats on veterans and veterans affairs, veterans health care and legislation for almost 35 years.
John organized and established the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) Chapter 2001 in Northern California. John established Special Forces Association Chapter 89 in Northern California in 2004.
He is a member and has sat on the board of directors of the regional Retired Officers Association (TROA) in Northern California for over 15 years. He is the past chairman of the Board of Victory Ensured Through Service, (V.E.T.S.), a philanthropic veterans organization that supports veterans hospitals and projects in Washington State, Oregon, Arizona and California that has donated over $1,500,000.00 to veterans in the past 14 years.
John is the past president of the Shasta County Veterans Affiliated Council (SCVAC), which represents 64,000 veterans and dependants in Shasta County, California and 38 veteran service organizations and women’s auxiliaries.
He is the founder and first chairman of the board of the Northern California VA Health Care System Advisory Council which represents the 16 Northern Counties of California as far as veterans health care is concerned. This is a geographical area the size of the State of Ohio.
John was very instrumental in getting a Veterans Administration outpatient medical clinic in Redding, California, and in 1990 co-wrote the proposal for a new 50,000 square foot full service VA OPC in Redding CA. This became a reality and is now serving veterans from all over Northern California.
He also wrote the concept and started the legislative quest for a veteran’s cemetery in Northern California in 1988 so our American heroes could be buried with dignity. This effort of almost two decades turned into reality when the Governor of the State of California signed legislation that would put the first State Veterans Cemetery in California in Shasta County.
John and his collaborator in this effort designed a plan to insure at least 10 similar state cemeteries in California would be constructed so no family member would have to travel more than 75 miles to visit a grave and honor their loved ones.
This state veterans cemetery is now constructed and has 165 acres of land. Its cost to the federal government was over $7 million dollars to build. He also helped to establish the California Veteran’s Cemetery Association (CRVA) to serve “ALL” veterans in California; noting that California has over 4 million veterans.
John then wrote the concept and personally met with U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi trying to get the VA to build a 50 bed VA hospital in Northern California. This was not approved, but instead the VA went with his plan “B” and made a contractual agreement with one of the local major medical centers for a $2 million dollar annual project to care for “Emergency Care Veterans”.
John wrote the concept and later the proposed legislation (he was the sponsor of CA SB4) for a California veterans home in Northern California. This legislation included a 500 bed facility with an alzheimer’s wing. Then he championed this project through two state gubernatorial visits and town halls and finally the signing into law by the Governor of the State of California. This veteran’s project is estimated to cost $70 million dollars and is due for completion in 2011.
John was President H.W. Bush’s local chairman for America’s Welcome Home Celebration for our Gulf War Veterans on July 4, 1991. John was also the American Legion’s Representative on the “National Gulf War Celebration” in 1991 and by proclamation the City of Redding’s Chairman for this event. This veteran’s project resulted in a celebration of over 20,000 attendees in Redding, California on July 4, 1991 honoring our Heroes from the Gulf War. He raised the money to have a stone and bronze plaque place in the local Veterans Memorial Grove honoring the Gulf War Veterans.
John has worked with famous people to help in honoring veterans. In 1989 and 90 John worked with country music legend Merle Haggard in planning and executing a Western Regional and then a National 100% Combat Disabled Fishing Tournaments for Veterans on Lake Shasta, California sponsored by Mr. Haggard. Most of these men were double amputees and some were blind or paraplegics. Most had never fished since they were wounded.
John is also very involved with veterans affairs in some of our nation’s most prominent fraternal organizations. He was the Co-Chairman of the ELKS National Veterans Service Commission and is also very active in veterans affairs in his Masonic Lodge. John was the chairman, co-chairman and advisor for the Shasta County Veterans Day Parade for eight years. He chaired the Memorial Days services for many years in Shasta County after the services were stopped at Shasta College in 1994 by a radical liberal movement.
John felt he could not do enough to help veterans especially when it came to “Legal Help.” No one wanted to do any “Pro Bono” work for his needy veterans, so John went back to college and at age “62” graduated with a degree as a Legal Assistant just so he could help veterans with their legal problems. I might note that John has served in all capacities listed above as an unpaid volunteer.
Last but certainly not least John’s family has been involved with Special Forces, SFA, volunteerism and veterans affairs for many decades. John’s first wife Sally was a long time civil servant who worked at JFK Center and passed away of lung cancer. His current wife, Doris, has been by his side and assisted and encouraged him for over 25 years.
His son John E. Cleckner II served in Special Forces for 14 years (SF Medic) assigned to the 7th SFGA. John II has had 40 deployments during this time in SF and Air Forces SOF and was awarded the Combat Medical Badge (CMB) in Panama. John II is a Decader and Life Member of SFA. Captain John E. Cleckner II is currently assigned to Air Force Special Operations at Hurlburt Field, Florida and has deployed to Iraq and just recently returned from a Philippine, and Afghanistan deployment. John Sr. currently has a son, a great grandson and three very close nephews deployed.