By How Miller
“Jon Cavaiani was the epitome of the professional soldier.”
Col. Roger Donlon (MOH)
This book is a labor of love. SFA Chapter 23 showed much love to Jon and his wife Barbara when it counted. Jon’s service with U.S. Army Special Forces, as valuable and incredible as it was, only portrays a part of Jon, though it represents his actions as a man throughout his life.
From a childhood rife with bad breaks, enough to subdue many a young man, he persevered to be a shining example of integrity, loyalty, service, and love of his fellow man.
The authors, Mike Evers, editor of the excellent Chapter 23 newsletter The SIT-REP and more, along with his cowriter John Siegfried take us from Jon’s early chaotic life, to his stable upbringing in California’s Central Valley, where he learned to respect the workers on the farm whom he supervised.
They bring us along through high school and his entrance to the Army and becoming a Green Beret. While serving as an SF Medic he endured magnificently in extremely heavy enemy contact, protecting his American and indigenous team members, for which he was recognized with the Medal of Honor. His unavoidable capture by the enemy and subsequent time as a POW, showed more of his mettle.
He was “put in”‘ for the Medal of Honor, partly because, even though he was suffering from multiple wounds, he refused to abandon his Montagnards when ordered to do so. He was to be awarded the medal posthumously, because he was MIA and presumed dead.
Instead, he survived in captivity and was singled out for “special treatment” because he had killed an NVA officer’s son while defending himself, ending up in H?a Lò Prison, otherwise known as the Hanoi Hilton. Many intriguing details draw us in to the experience. In 1974, a very much alive Jon Cavaiani was presented the Medal of Honor by President Ford.
We are treated to other parts of his career up to his very well attended retirement. He found himself caught up in the Medal of Honor Society, SOA, and SFA, foregoing resurrecting the farm he grew up on. His new-found wife Barbara and he settled in Northern California where he dealt with other challenges.
PTSD, Agent Orange, and Leukemia head the list. Throughout that time, he was an avid helper of other veterans, including being named Veterans Ambassador to the National Hot Rod Association, All the while he preached: “never give up” and insisted upon cooking whenever he had the chance. He was a loyal supporter of the Montagnards and developed a great connection with the Philadelphia area.
A whole chapter is dedicated to the support Jon and Barbara received in their final struggles, especially by members of SFA Chapter 23, up through his interment at Arlington National Cemetery. Members went to great lengths to assist the couple, including arranging for super clean housing, financial support, rides to treatments, all mixed in with heavy doses of love and encouragement. The authors have allowed us to share with you Chapter 4 from the book, describing his most significant combat action at Hickory Hill in Vietnam. It is quite a tale, read it here.