An American Patriot
Jim Cava was born on September 5, 1948 to the loving and caring parents of Carmen and Rose Cava in Hackensack Hospital, Hackensack, New Jersey. Most of his life was spent growing up in Carlstadt, New Jersey. It was in this small industrial town in this great land of America where Jim had the fortunate opportunity and wonderful experience to play Little League and Babe Ruth League Baseball and to run track for his parish community. In 1953 at the age of five, he began his formal education at Saint Joseph’s Grammar School in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Jim was a good student and a devout Christian. He was proud to be an altar boy and for six dedicated years he served his Creator in that capacity. Jim attended Saint Mary’s High School in Rutherford, New Jersey where he graduated in 1966. He was an average student, a member of the Student Council and Glee Club and he participated in football, baseball and track. Aside from having a faithful and eternal love for his Creator, he likewise held an undeniable and abiding love for his country. Jim's patriotism was innate. He will never forget in 1963, as a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore, how concerned and saddened he felt when the news media reported the first Honorable and Brave Patriotic American to be Killed-in-Action (KIA) in the Vietnam War. The ongoing Vietnam War preoccupied Jim's mind. Often, he would think of his fellow Americans serving their country so far away and not being there with them. He wanted to do his part for his country and to share the responsibility of those Honorable and Brave Patriotic Americans who were serving our country. Jim believed it to be an honor and his duty to serve his country. At the age of seventeen, he enlisted in the United States Navy. Not yet being an adult, his discerning parents reluctantly but willingly signed the consent papers for they kindly respected his heartfelt patriotism. Directly following high school, Jim entered boot camp at the United States Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. He was assigned to Company 739, 26th Battalion, 2nd Regiment. Jim was chosen 2nd Platoon Leader and he helped his Company earn the Regimental ‘E’ Flag, the ‘I’ Means Flag and the Star Means Flag. Jim was awarded the highest honor that Recruit Training Command could bestow upon a naval recruit “Recruit Brigade Commander” and with great pride on March 9, 1967 he had the distinct privilege of leading the hundreds of graduating naval recruits at Recruit Training Command in the Traditional Graduation Review. Jim received his medical training for Hospital Corpsman at Basic Hospital Corps School, Class “A”, U.S. Naval Hospital Corps School, San Diego, California where he graduated on December 7, 1967. And he trained for service with a U.S Marine Corps combat unit in preparation for jungle warfare at Field Medical Service School, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California where he graduated on October 8, 1968.
Immediately following completion of Field Medical Service School, Jim received orders to serve his country in the Republic of Vietnam. He was assigned to I (India) Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. His base camp was a village called An Hoa, approximately 17 kilometers south of Da Nang. Jim and his fellow Marines spent most of their time out in the field; covering the countryside, searching for the enemy (going on sweeps). Going out into the field in Vietnam could mean a number of things, none of them pleasant or easy like: stepping on a land mine or into a hidden trap, getting ambushed or hit a by snipers bullet, getting captured (Prisoner-of-War, POW) or lost (Missing-in-Action, MIA), getting bit by a huge rat or a malaria carrying mosquito, getting bit by a venomous snake, scorpion or deadly tarantula, getting blood sucked by slimy leeches or gnawed at by giant red ants, getting attacked by a mountain lion or a 1,800 pound water buffalo, getting some peculiar rash or jungle rot - etc., etc., etc. “The Field” was where the war was, where Charlie (Vietcong) was; and the Marines went out there to find him and fight him. Jim was not afraid for his faith sustained him. His prayer was: “No matter how I get home God - please just get me home.” The Vietnam War was an unconventional type of warfare for the American soldier. It was guerrilla warfare. There was no line of demarcation, no front. The field and Charlie could be anywhere and everywhere. Depending on what type of unit an American served in, the way to go out into the field might be in an aircraft, on a boat, in a wheeled or tracked vehicle, or on his own two feet. Jim and his fellow Marines went on foot. Going on foot in Vietnam was “humping the boonies”, hauling a heavy combat load (approximately 70 lbs.) through jungles, rice paddies and elephant grass, across streams and rivers, up hills and mountains, under a cruel sun or in a monsoon rain; in mud, sand or dust. They were called and defined as the “The Ultimate Weapon” - The Infantryman (foot soldier). Throughout the course of history the foot soldier has been the elemental part of warfare; the one who carries out the basic dirty work of war. Through the course of time the uniforms and the weapons have changed, but the job of the foot soldier has not changed. He is still the one who has to muck it out with the enemy at close range, the one who ultimately conquers, and holds or loses the real estate. In Vietnam the foot soldier picked up a new nickname: “grunt.” As a Corpsman, it was Jim's job to take care of the medical needs of a Marine, and most importantly to save his life. Besides being a Corpsman, he was a brother, a friend and a morale builder. The designated weapon for a Corpsman was a .45 caliber pistol, which was to be used in defending a wounded Marine and himself against the ensuing enemy. Jim found the .45 to be not only inadequate but impractical. He carried an M-16 semi-automatic rifle, two bandoleers of magazines, two hand-grenades, medical bag and field pack. Jim was not the average Corpsman. He was a Marine/Corpsman, and he was confident and capable, ready and equipped to do what was necessary.
Although Jim was discontented and discomforted with the leadership of his country in bringing the war to a decisive end, it did not deter him from his assigned duty and moral obligation. The care of his men was of utmost importance to him, and he was unyielding in his capacity, and in his submission to Duty - Honor - Country. He was confident; it was his time to be all that he could be. But fate would not comply. The day was November 20, 1968 - OPERATION MEADE RIVER. In their military briefing the night before, Jim and his fellow Marines were told to expect a significant encounter with the enemy. In the early morning darkness these Honorable and Brave Patriotic United States Marines boarded their transport choppers and before long each helicopter lifted off one by one en route to the LZ (landing zone). To this day the last thing Jim can remember before getting shot down by the enemy was the loud roar of the chopper engines with the unmistakable sound of the chopper blades whirling round and round, the paradoxical scenic beauty of the peaceful countryside below, and his rosary in hand as he prayed. Jim's helicopter was the only chopper to be shot down that day. As the chopper approached the LZ the enemy opened fire. The pilot and co-pilot were killed instantly and the huge CH-46 went down, tumbled three times and exploded into a ball of fire. In a violently forceful instant, his life was transformed into a state of non-existence. Unconscious, he was pulled to safety from the burning chopper by a brave fellow Marine, and for hours he laid helpless in a rice paddy before a Medevac was able to assist and rescue. He was flown directly to U.S. Naval Support Activity (NSA), Da Nang for emergency medical treatment. The heartfelt gratitude and admiration Jim holds for the brave fellow Marine and for skilled professionals of our Medical Service Corps in preserving his life remains everlasting. Several days later he was flown to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, where he awoke from my comatose state. As Jim opened his eyes, his first thought was one of thanksgiving; he was ALIVE. Although he was confused, he was not shocked at what he discovered; for somehow intuitively, he knew something traumatic had happened to him; he just couldn't put it together. Jim found himself in a soft hospital bed with clean white sheets. His left arm was gone, and his legs were encased in hard plaster. Insistently, he asked questions in a dire attempt to find out the status of his men, and what had actually happened to him. No one really knew. How could they? They came from two different worlds. At first Jim was told that he was the only survivor. Then he was told that out of the seventeen Marines aboard the transport chopper, all were killed except for Jim and a fellow Marine. Painstakingly he tried, but was never able to find out exactly what happened. What he did find out was that his left arm was severed above the elbow, his legs were crushed below the knees, his back was fractured in three places, he had received multiple scars, and he had contracted a staph infection that was causing hideous pustules to break out all over his body. Jim was cut down without reprisal and this infuriated him to no end. The most significant undertaking of his life had been cut short and taken away from him. His job, one that meant more to him than anything, was now over. Realizing this, and that there was nothing he could do to alter the aimless course of the war evoked deep feelings of anger, frustration, and depression within him. He was overwhelmed with thoughts of Vietnam and of how much he wanted to go back. Jim felt so damn distressfully helpless and useless. Yet as he thought of the immense human sacrifice given in suffering and in death by Our Honorable and Brave Patriotic American men and women, in upholding the fundamental and undeniable principles of Honor, Liberty, Equality, Justice and Humanity for which America stands and defending the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness to which all people are endowed by their Creator, he was filled with a profound sense of pride and consolation. Jim served his country with honor and his reward was immensely gratifying. He was now among that elite and distinguished group of Honorable and Brave Patriotic Americans who served The United States of America with honor. It was that distinction of serving with honor that gave Jim a source of inner strength then and always, because honor is what it's all about. There is nothing more important than honor. It is everything. A week later, Jim was flown to Walson Army Hospital, Fort Dix, New Jersey. It was here that he received a most welcomed and compassionate visit from his family. A couple of weeks later, he was transported to U.S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he spent four months recuperating, and proficiently well trained in the use of an artificial arm. Finally, Jim was transferred to Veterans Hospital, East Orange, New Jersey where he spent the remaining two months of hospitalization and recuperation. On May 15, 1969, having served faithfully and honorably, Patriot Jim Cava was retired from The United States Navy.
PURPLE HEART MEDAL
COMBAT ACTION RIBBON
PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION RIBBON
MERITORIOUS UNIT COMMENDATION RIBBON WITH TWO STARS
GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL
NATIONAL DEFENSE SERVICE MEDAL
VIETNAM SERVICE MEDAL WITH ONE STAR
REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM GALLANTRY CROSS MEDAL WITH PALM
REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM CIVIL ACTIONS MEDAL WITH PALM
REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM CAMPAIGN MEDAL
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL WITH OAK CLUSTER
Petty Officer Jim Cava gave his all then and continues to do so today. In accordance with his faithful and eternal love for Our Creator, his undeniable and everlasting love for Our Country,
his sincere and enduring love for Our Children to safeguard them from that which is harmful and anti-American and his loyal and steadfast love for Our Honorable and Brave Patriotic Americans who have defended and who are defending Our Country he proudly established:
“OPERATION RED, WHITE AND BLUE”
Awareness-for that which is Right
Respect-for that which is Honorable and Good / Others and Oneself
The following inspirational and motivational Americanism Presentations are available upon request at no-charge:
* Kindergarten to Second Grade Americanism Program
* Third to Fifth Grade Americanism Program
* Sixth to Eighth Grade Americanism Program
* Ninth to Twelfth Grade Americanism Program
* Americanism Ceremony
Each day Petty Officer Jim Cava kneels before his Creator giving Him Praise, Glory and Thanksgiving:
For Saving His Life! - For His Meaningful Purpose! - For His Many Blessings! - For Another Day Of Life!