Jon Cavaiani liked to make one thing very clear: He didn’t “win” the Medal of Honor.
“I was a recipient,” the Columbia resident and Vietnam War hero told The Modesto Bee’s Ron DeLacy in 2003.
Cavaiani died Tuesday at Stanford Medical Center. He would have been 71 today. Cavaiani was born in England on Aug. 2, 1943, and moved to the United States four years later.
Gaining U.S. citizenship in 1968, Cavaiani exuded a soldier’s toughness throughout his life. He joined the Army despite a 4-F classification (he was allergic to bee stings) by learning of a doctor who had falsified 4-F excuses for healthy men wanting to avoid military service. Cavaiani said he blackmailed the doctor into doing just the opposite for him, and in 1969 began training as a paratrooper and went into Special Forces training. Soon he was in Vietnam, and when his year’s tour of duty ended, he refused to come home.
That refusal set in motion the chain of events that led to Cavaiani’s Medal of Honor.
In June 1971, he led 80 South Vietnamese and American soldiers in the defense of a hill, outnumbered by the enemy and under heavy fire.
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