SPC James M. Cavaco

Unit: 75th Ranger Regiment, 3rd Battalion
Age: 26
Home Town: Forestdale, MA
Died On: 10/03/1993

SPC James M. Cavaco could have gotten out of deploying to Somalia with his Ranger unit. But his dedication wouldn't let him, says his mother, Barbara Cavaco, James Cavaco was among the American soldiers killed in the Oct. 3-4 firefight in Mogadishu.

When James Cavaco enlisted in 1991 at age 24, he was a little older than most recruits. He decided that since he couldn't find fulfilling work in the civilian world, he could find it in the Army.

James Cavaco had an associate's degree from Cape Cod Community College and worked at several jobs, but the sagging New England economy couldn't provide him a job with a future. “He just made up his mind--`This is it, I've had enough of this, I'm not going to live like this, I'm not going to be a bum, I'm going to be the best I can be and that's it,”' his mother says.

James Cavaco not only enlisted, he volunteered for the Rangers. Barbara Cavaco says her son quit smoking and drinking and started an exercise program to meet the high Ranger standards. Ranger training didn't phase him. “As brutal as Ranger School was, he loved it,” Barbara Cavaco says. “He thought it was great.”

To break the tension, he fell back on his hobby, playing rock music on the guitar. “He was really into that; he was quite good,” his mother says, adding with a laugh, “He used to drive all the guys crazy in the barracks.”

When James Cavaco got the word that his company was to deploy to Somalia, he had been notified of a death in the family. Barbara Cavaco still weeps when she recalls her son's selfless response to leaving his unit.

“He refused to come home,” says his mother. “What he said was, 'I have to do what I have to do to affect mission success and to see that my men don't get hurt.'”

On Oct. 3, James Cavaco was riding in a convoy of Humvees battling through the tight streets of Mogadishu to rescue soldiers in a downed helicopter. He was killed in a rain of automatic weapons fire and grenades. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor.

Barbara Cavaco has no grudge against the Army. “He had faith in his officers, in his unit, his equipment, his training,” she says. “He was totally dedicated. He felt that the men he was with were the best that the selection process was such that he was surrounded by the best he could be surrounded by. “That was his thing, to do the best he could.”