Sergeant Major Jon Robert Cavaiani passes

| July 29, 2014


The sad news comes from many quarters that Sergeant Major Jon Robert Cavaiani, who earned the Medal of Honor in June 1971, has passed. According to Wiki;

Born in England, Cavaiani emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1947 at age four. Though initially classified 4F, due in part to a severe allergy to bee stings, Cavaiani joined the Army from Fresno, California, shortly before becoming a naturalized citizen in 1968.

His citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society;

S/Sgt. Cavaiani distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action in the Republic of Vietnam on 4 and 5 June 1971 while serving as a platoon leader to a security platoon providing security for an isolated radio relay site located within enemy-held territory. On the morning of 4 June 1971, the entire camp came under an intense barrage of enemy small arms, automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire from a superior size enemy force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani acted with complete disregard for his personal safety as he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire in order to move about the camp’s perimeter directing the platoon’s fire and rallying the platoon in a desperate fight for survival. S/Sgt. Cavaiani also returned heavy suppressive fire upon the assaulting enemy force during this period with a variety of weapons. When the entire platoon was to be evacuated, S/Sgt. Cavaiani unhesitatingly volunteered to remain on the ground and direct the helicopters into the landing zone. S/Sgt. Cavaiani was able to direct the first 3 helicopters in evacuating a major portion of the platoon. Due to intense increase in enemy fire, S/Sgt. Cavaiani was forced to remain at the camp overnight where he calmly directed the remaining platoon members in strengthening their defenses. On the morning of S June, a heavy ground fog restricted visibility. The superior size enemy force launched a major ground attack in an attempt to completely annihilate the remaining small force. The enemy force advanced in 2 ranks, first firing a heavy volume of small arms automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire while the second rank continuously threw a steady barrage of hand grenades at the beleaguered force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani returned a heavy barrage of small arms and hand grenade fire on the assaulting enemy force but was unable to slow them down. He ordered the remaining platoon members to attempt to escape while he provided them with cover fire. With 1 last courageous exertion, S/Sgt. Cavaiani recovered a machine gun, stood up, completely exposing himself to the heavy enemy fire directed at him, and began firing the machine gun in a sweeping motion along the 2 ranks of advancing enemy soldiers. Through S/Sgt. Cavaiani’s valiant efforts with complete disregard for his safety, the majority of the remaining platoon members were able to escape. While inflicting severe losses on the advancing enemy force, S/Sgt. Cavaiani was wounded numerous times. S/Sgt. Cavaiani’s conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

Category: Real Soldiers

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What a certified badass.


That shit has to be in his DNA.

HOW the holy hell is anyone that fearless??

Pinto Nag

May he Rest in Peace — he certainly did his time in Hell.


Rest in peace, SGM Cavaiani. You’ve earned it.


RIP warrior. What a great model of soldiering and character.


I knew Jon and he was a special guy. He once said to me, “Tom, you know what medal I’m proudest of?” I said, “Well Jon, I know the obvious answer. Which one?” He said, “My Vietnam Civil Actions Medal.” Rest in Peace my old friend.

2/17 Air Cav

Thanks for that, Tom. My condolences.


You are welcome Cav brother and thank you. We’ll all get together on the Fiddlers Green…see you there, but not to soon, OK? We are losing brothers left and right.


Sorry for the loss of your friend.


Thanks RB. It’s been a rough week. Best bro’s prostate cancer has metestisized, (SP?), and lost Jon.

A Proud Infidel®™

R.I.P., Warrior.


Rest In Peace Sergeant Major Cavaiani. Thank God our nation has men like you.

Mr Wolf

This was not mentioned in articles, but is VERY necessary in continuing this hero’s story: The intense enemy fire forced Cavaiani and a small number of other troops to stay behind, pitted against an overwhelming enemy force. Cavaiani led the final defense of Hickory Hill and then provided covering fire while his remaining soldiers escaped. Alone, the soldier played dead and avoided capture for 11 days, according to officials. But eventually Cavaiani was captured by North Vietnamese soldiers after trying to signal a U.S. helicopter and spent 661 days in captivity. “I saw two shadows on the rock and decided discretion was the better part of valor,” Cavaiani said at his retirement on Fort Bragg in 1990. The Vietnamese who captured him was a little old man with a rifle who was probably shaking harder than he was, Sgt. Maj. Cavaiani said. But the American was wounded, burned and exhausted by his flight and could no longer resist. Cavaiani was released in March 1973, after spending much of his confinement in a solitary cell. “I was not the most cooperative of prisoners,” he said. Cavaiani said being a recipient of the Medal of Honor really had not made his life as a soldier any easier because the medal also left a burden to play the part of a model soldier. “You have to maintain, you know, the image,” he said. Cavaiani’s death was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Officials on Fort Bragg said he had been battling illnesses associated with leukemia for some time. They said he died with his wife, Barbara, at his side. Funeral services are pending, according to the society. With Cavaiani’s death, there are now 79 Medal of Honor recipients living today. Cavaiani retired from the Army in 1990 after 21 years of service. Born in Ireland and raised in England, Cavaiani moved to the United States in 1953 and joined the Army a year before becoming a naturalized citizen. Cavaiani volunteered for Special Forces and later served with Task Force 1 Advisory Element, Studies and Observations Group, an elite reconnaissance unit in… Read more »


Thanks Mr. Wolf for adding this. He was a special, special, man.


Rest in Peace, Sergeant Major.


What a guy. RIP, Soldier.


Noticed a few errors on various linked bios of the SGM:

Wiki has his service date as 1968-1990, but the last sentence lists 1996 as his retirement date.

Sacramento Bee lists SGM Cavaiani as serving 31 yrs.

PBS American Valor has the SGM’s birth date as 1948

RIP SGM Cavaiani

Janie Benz

I went steady with him in high school I was born in 46 and he was 2 grades above me so he probably wasn’t born in 48. He was a great person.


Rest In Peace, Sergeant Major. By God, you earned it.


Damn! RIP

Wrench S2/S3

Let us not forget what SGM Cavaiani accomplished in 2011. He went back to Hickory Hill to bring home one of his team.

You will be missed.

Old Trooper

No shit?

Wow! That says it all, right there. A man amongst men.

RIP SGM Cavaiani

Al T.

Fair winds and following seas SMAJ!


Rest in Peace!


He was at DLI in the late ’70s and held in awe by all the young enlisted dudes… hell, he was pretty much held in awe by everyone there. A great guy who was unfailingly civil and always seemed upbeat. I remember at one meeting someone asked if he still held a grudge against the North Vietnamese for torturing him – his reply was that ‘no, if I captured an enemy who knew where his buddies were and they were out to kill me and my buddies – I guarantee he would tell me what I wanted to know. Can’t get mad at someone for doing the same thing you would – no, I don’t have a grudge.’ Class act, and leading the way to Fiddler’s Green.