HAMPTON, Virginia –
If you asked James Cavanaugh, he’d tell you it wasn’t a big deal...but for the 40-plus attendees in the standing room only confines of the Hampton VAMC palliative care chapel, it was something they had never seen before – and certainly weren’t going to miss, as the Korean War Veteran received his long overdue recognition for on the field valor and sacrifice.
In front of a crowd that included his wife, children, several generations of family members, visitors from the office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, friends from all over the country, a sister who skyped in from California for the special occasion, and his Hampton caregivers, Cavanaugh received the purple and gold award reserved for those injured while fighting in defense of their country.
Family friend, Army Lt. Col. John Turner, took leave from his day job as commander of Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Tobyhanna, Pa., and drove down to preside over the special ceremony. Turner gave a history of the award and its significance - noting that this was an honor not simply given to those who raise their hands and put on the uniform, but rather one earned through the fire and blood of combat. According to Turner, who shared the history of the Army’s 5th Cavalry unit, to which Cavanaugh was attached for several years during the conflict, the former private and his brothers-in-arms were tasked to do the nearly impossible and did it exceedingly well – but at the cost of many brave souls who became casualties for the United Nation and United States’ cause.
Making the award happen and coordinating the ceremony for the 84 year-old Veteran was a classic study in teamwork as family, good friends, Senator Kaine’s local Veteran Affairs team and the staff at Hampton huddled together on short notice to ensure Friday’s event, in its own small way, would serve as a worthy platform to honor Cavanaugh’s deeds.
William La Monte of VFW Post #10804, Myrtle Beach, S.C., whom Cavanaugh facetiously calls his ‘agent,’ worked diligently behind the scenes with the Cavanaugh family to pull together the necessary paperwork to make the honor happen in the first place. Once everything was together, Senator Kaine’s office got involved and worked with Hampton to put together the much deserved special recognition on very short notice.
Smiling while surrounded by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it was very evident that Cavanaugh was appreciative of the attention - even if he still thought everyone was making too big a deal of what he did.
One of six brothers who served from World War II through Korea in each of the services, Cavanaugh noted that he was simply doing his part by serving.
All of those present to participate in his long overdue honor were more than happy to simply serve him as well.