VFW Commander researching Veterans
Memorial names for possible MIAs

May 20, 2015
Santa Paula News

When Commander Jerry Olivas speaks about Prisoners of War and Missing in Action at Monday’s Memorial Day Ceremony, he’ll note one Santa Paulan whose fate remains unknown…and that there are others that possibly should also be recognized as MIA on the Veterans Memorial.

Olivas leads Santa Paula’s Veterans of Foreign War Mercer-Prieto Post 2043 and his remarks at the May 25 ceremony will include United States policy regarding POW/MIA issues.

And he will also note that at least one of Santa Paula’s own, Jim Ray Cavender, is MIA after the 21-year-old helicopter pilot and his crew went down during a non-battle mission November 4, 1969 in South Vietnam. Their bodies were never found. 

The Mercer-Prieto VFW has a monument at Veterans Memorial Park noting all those killed in action in World War 1, World War II, Korean and Vietnam; the Korean War Veterans Association Ventura County Chapter 56 has an additional monument for those lost in that conflict.

Cavender, an Army Chief  Warrant Officer, is the only MIA among those Santa Paulans lost in Vietnam.

Cavender was a member of 281st Aviation Company, and on the day he went missing he was the pilot of a Bell Iroquois Utility Helicopter on a combat support mission. On returning to Nha Trang from Duc Lap contact was lost when the aircraft was near Duc My Pass. His remains were not recovered. 

Cavender’s name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.

“It really bothered me when I was doing my research to see his name come up and we never had that information,” said Olivas of Cavender’s MIA status.

And after discussions with KWVA-VC 56 Commander David Lopez, Olivas believes there might be some Korean War losses of Santa Paulans that are actually MIAs; that issue is also being researched.

Olivas discovered Cavender’s status when he examined Department of Defense and other records. 

Now Olivas is exploring the cost of updating Cavender’s Veterans Memorial plaque to recognize that he is MIA; in addition, the spelling of Cavender’s name must also be corrected. If it is found there are Korean War losses that are also MIA there will also be recognition of same on the Veterans Memorial.

Once it is determined how many of those appearing on the VFW monument are MIAs, Olivas said a fundraising drive would be launched to cover the cost of adding the designation to the name plaques.





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