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Nine Medal of Honor Recipients Attend Gala

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., June 14, 2004 – Ten Medal of Honor recipients from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars were expected here at the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation's 10th Annual Invitational Gala June 12, but only nine showed up the 10th died five days before the event.

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Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient retired Army Sgt. Maj. Jon Cavaiani, left, chats with Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Mark Allen of the 6th Motor Transport Battalion based in Red Bank, N.J., during the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation's 10th Annual Invitational Gala in Atlantic City, N.J., June 12. Photo by Rudi Williams
  

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"One of our recipients who has been with us for the past 15 years passed away (June 7) Marine Cpl. Richard E. Bush," Medal of Honor recipient retired Marine Corps Col. Harvey C. "Barney" Barnum Jr. told the gala attendees. "He received his medal for the Battle of Okinawa during World War II." Bush lived in Waukegan, Ill.

Bush, 80, a native of Glasgow, Ky., was cited for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action on April 16, 1945, as a squad leader with the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 6th Marine Division, on Mount Yaetake on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands.

Barnum introduced the other American combat heroes, including himself, to the audience, starting out with a World War II hero, retired Army Col. Van T. Barfoot, a native of Edinburg, Miss., now living in Ford, Va. As a second lieutenant with the 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division, Barfoot was cited for bravery on the battlefield near Carano, Italy, on May 23, 1944.

Also from World War II, retired Army Master Sgt. Nicholas Oresko, a native of Bayonne, N.J., was cited for gallantry while serving as a platoon leader with Company C, 302nd Infantry, 94th Infantry Division, near Tettington, Germany, on Jan. 23, 1945.

Barnum said Korean War Medal of Honor recipient Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. Hector A. Cafferata Jr., a native of New York City, is now living in Venice, Fla. Cafferata was a rifleman with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein). He was honored for bravery on Nov. 28, 1950, during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir.

Detroit native Marine Corps Pfc. Robert E. Simanek, 74, received the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in combat on Aug. 17, 1952, while serving with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein). Simanek lives in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Vietnam War Marine Corps Sgt. (then Cpl.) Robert E. O'Malley, 61, of New York City, was the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. He was honored for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity near An Cuong 2, South Vietnam, on Aug. 18, 1965, while serving with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.

Another Vietnam War hero, retired Army Sgt. Maj. Jon R. Cavaiani, 60, who was born in Royston, England, was a staff sergeant when he was cited for combat valor June 4-5, 1971,as a member of the Vietnam Training Advisory Group. Now a resident of Columbia, Calif., Cavaiani also was held two years as a prisoner of war.

Retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Robert M. Patterson, 56, of Durham, N.C., received the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action near La Chu, Vietnam, on May 6, 1968. Now a resident of Fayetteville, N.C., he was a sergeant with Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry.

Greenville, S.C., native Brian M. Thacker, 55, was a first lieutenant with the Army's Battery A, 1st Battalion, 92nd Artillery, when he performed with conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at Kontum Province, Vietnam, on March 31, 1971. Thacker now lives in Wheaton, Md.

Barnum, 63, was born in Cheshire, Conn., and is now a resident of Reston, Va. He was cited for bravery on the battlefield near Ky Phu in Quang Tin Province, Vietnam, on Dec. 18, 1965. A first lieutenant at the time, Barnum was a member of Company H, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division.

After introducing the nine Medal of Honor recipients, Barnum asked them to stand at attention while everyone paused for a moment to remember Bush and his outstanding service to the nation.

This marked Cavaiani's 18th year of attending the annual gala. "I'm an honorary Marine," he noted. "I was made an honorary Marine on Jan. 1, 2000, by General Jones." He was referring to former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones, now NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

"It's an opportunity to get together with all my friends. Basically it's a camaraderie thing, and to find out how we're doing as a foundation," Cavaiani said. "Even the money from my coins (special Medal of Honor recipient coins) all goes to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, even though I was Army.

"We've been trying to increase the number of Medal of Honor recipients who attend this event," Cavaiani continued. "At one time, we had 14 (at this event). But our numbers have dwindled down to 130 recipients, so it's getting harder and harder."

For example, Cavaiani said Dick Bush had been attending the event for years. "He called on Saturday (June 5), and said 'I'm coming,' and he passed away on Monday (June 7)."

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Related Sites:
Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMedal of Honor recipient retired Army Sgt. Maj. Jon Cavaiani stoops down to autograph his picture in the program booklet for the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation's 10th Annual Invitational Gala on June 12. Meanwhile, Army Lt. Col. Carl Glenn Ayers, left, military assistant to the secretary of defense, chats with two other Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipients, retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Patterson, center, and former Army 1st Lt. Brian M. Thacker. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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