Memorial Day: Take a moment to remember 1st Lt. Jeff Scharver

Jeff Scharver was a unique person, with an electric personality. He was always wired for doing something fun and always engaged those around him in a spirited way. That was Jeff, he embodied life and was one of those people you meet every once in awhile that you say, he/she’s got a great life ahead of them. I suppose I never worried about how his life would turn out, a military and distinguished career, a happy wife and family filled with children. He didn’t get high on drugs, but high on life, and really set a great example for all those who knew him. When you look at that photo of him, look deeper and you’ll see exactly what I am talking about. That isn’t a casual smile, that’s a smile that is fully engaged in the spirit of life.

1st Lt. Jeff Scharver (left) and his classmate and co-pilot Seagle of the other Cobra. Photo courtesy of Martha Carson

In 2010 I ran into this guy (via online discussions) who flies the Apache 64 for the US and is currently serving overseas in Iraq.  It reminded me of a friend I knew in college who was in ROTC and later became a helicopter pilot.  At the time in 1983-4 I had gone off to Harvard University and he had already left for pilot school, and basically a new life. About a year later I found out that he was shot down in the Grenada invasion and had been dead for some time.

When I heard this I of course wanted to know what had happened, the details.  What I was told is he had become a huey pilot or was learning to fly them.  I had heard of an incident during the invasion where a couple of huey’s had collided and many were killed, and not knowing anything else assumed he might of been in this mess.  But because of this Apache 64 guy I decided to try another internet search for information… understand that the Grenada invasion took place in 1983, over 25 years ago.  What I found was that people started posting about the facts around 2005, and more info in 2007.  It’s a testament to this particular story that people in the military especially are still recounting the event.

What I learned was way more impressive than a foul up, but in fact that my buddy was a real hero, more impressive than anyone could expect.

I’ll give you some brief details about the story, but will later elaborate because I think the story is remarkable and worth sharing.

What Happened: Navy Seals were sent in on the ground to secure an individual who had potential to become Grenada’s new leader.  It turned out to be a trap and the Seals were in grave danger, being confronted by armor and running out of ammo.  Cobra’s were sent in.  My buddy, Jeff Scharver was a co-pilot in one chopper and his classmate Seagle, a co-pilot, was in the other Cobra.

The area is under intense Anti Air fire ( triple-a or AAA.)  There are at least two batteries and other guns trained on the two Cobras.  Seagle’s Cobra is hit and goes down.  The pilot, Howard is severely wounded (he lands the damaged Cobra with his only remaining left hand, he fully survives)… Seagle pulling him to safety while under small arms fire, from the burning wreck.

Howard thinking he’s done for tells Seagle to save himself, even trying to shoot himself to end the discussion.  Seagle takes the pistol and does go for help but is captured and executed.  Meanwhile my buddy Jeff Scharver is overhead doing runs to keep ground troops off of Howard who’s laying in a soccer field.  They try to take out the AAA, until a rescue chopper can arrive… but their Cobra runs out of ammo.  Undeterred, they continue to fly over the AAA guns to draw their fire away from the rescue chopper who picks up Howard and waits on the ground for Seagle who obviously never shows up.  As you can guess, Scharver’s Cobra gets shot down and both he and the pilot are killed.

I’m sure that Scharver wasn’t going to leave the area, especially with his buddy on the ground, I’m sure the pilot felt the same way.  But I think it’s amazing that they were willing to fly overhead, knowing how serious the situation was on the ground, without any ammo.

I’ve found some photos, including the moment when his chopper hits the water.  I think the photo was probably taken by the cubans, perhaps the one’s manning the AAA gun. It’s a great story and shows that he was a real hero in saving Howard’s life.

Scharver, Heli Down

It’s amazing that someone took this picture the moment Scharver’s cobra hit the water.  I suspect the photographer might of been a Cuban.  As you can see it was published somewhere, the caption in English.

for anyone who’s lost someone they know, it’s good to see an image of the event versus letting one’s imagination try to fill in the details.  It’s pretty strange for me, that after all this time I finally know what happened to a great guy.  For those who knew him better, I wonder if they know what really happened and what he did that day, his first day of action in combat.



8 Replies to “Memorial Day: Take a moment to remember 1st Lt. Jeff Scharver”

  1. Jeff Scharver was my pilot at HMA 269.. I was one of his plane captains… I met Jeff in Camp Pendelton Ca when I was going to engine school.. He was a butter bar, and I was a Lance Corporal. Today is a hard day for me and many others who served with Jeff.. I was working with Jeff just prior to him being deployed, funny enough we were talking about hockey, because I played left defensemen in jr high school for my hockey team… We were going over the pre-flight check list together in the hanger at New River. Jeff and I used to go to the smokers at main side, his wife Pati, never really liked the boxing much, but Jeff loved it… Jeff was so full of life, he always had a smile on his face, and no matter what he did he went into his job 100% in everything he did.. Jeff was always clowning around too, for an officer he was a bit of a rebel.. Jeff was loved by his fellow Marines, he would do anything for us, and we would do the same for him.. I was already back from my deployment from Beirut, and Jeff had a million questions, as usual, he was picking my brain.. I remember telling Jeff, about Beirut what I experienced and told him he’d be ok, but what I remember most was how excited he was knowing he was going to Beirut.. Little did we know it then that the BLT would be hit by terrorist and our OIC of the flight line, Vincent Smith would be killed, and we had no idea about Grenada.. Jeff was deployed and I really never got a chance to say goodbye to Jeff, I saw Jeff in the ready room at New River, a few days before he deployed to HMM261, and he was being his playful self, but Capt Miasel and Major Outlaw were having none of it.. That’s the last I saw Jeff… The day Jeff went down, we were all mustered into the Hanger, I was working on a cobra scoping the main rotor head, then we were told that Jeff and Pat Giguere we missing, (Pat) was in Beirut with me, and I also knew Pat very well.. along with Capt Howard and Jeb Seagle who were shot down in number 32 which was my Cobra in Beirut Lebanon.. We didn’t know the details yet, next thing I know, we are putting my cobra I was working on into a C-5 along with another replacement Cobra, and a work party to put the helo’s back together on the airstrip in Grenada.. We didn’t have time to grieve we were working in support of the mission, but is was not a time that we where all enjoying ourselves, we just lost three brothers, we didn’t know how bad Tim Howard was wounded at the time and the mood was awful… I always Remember Jeff and his smile, his enthusiasm, his love for our Marine Corps, and the men he served with.. He was my officer, my pilot, and friend,, I miss him something terrible, but he along with my other pilots taught me a very valuable lesson in life, one that has stuck with me my entire adult life, that Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. I loved Jeff as a brother, I always looked up to Jeff for advise and to set an example, he took me under his wing and kept me straight, he helped me become the man I am today, and I am proud I served along side of him, he was and will always be my pilot, and I am just sorry I never had the chance to say goodbye. Semper fi Marines…

  2. I took the photo of Scharv and Jeb by their Cobra at the MCAS Cherry Point Open House/Air Show in April 1983. A fellow OSU NROTC grad went with me and we found Scharv and Jeb at the static display of aircraft from MCAS(H) Bew River. ‘Take our picture, Martha!’ he said. How was I to know how far this photo would circulate once it hit the Internet years later. I sent copies to the squadron while they were deployed and to the Scharver and Seagle families. A cropped version is at our NROTC unit’s display of former midshipmen killed in the line of duty.

    That was MCAS(H) New River, not ‘Bew River.’ Hard to type on a cell phone.

    Thank you for the byline. One day when I am organized I will dig out a photo of Scharv with our assistant Marine instructor taken on a weekend field exercise with our NROTC Marine Option midshipmen. I was in a photojournalism class and used that weekend’s photos for a photo story assignment. I had to print and re-print that particular photo so many times for the contrast to be just right. I laughed later that I was getting tired of that photo!

  3. Nic,
    Just got an email about this post. Jeff was my brother-in-law married to my sister Pati. 1983 was a long time ago yet losing him that day seems like yesterday. Your description of Jeff is beyond accurate. You captured his zest for life, infectious smile and love for the marines. And his fellow marines. Thank you. A truly amazing son, husband, neither and friend who is greatly missed. Pam Holmes.

  4. Thank you for this tribute and for the account of what happened on that fateful day. Jeff was a good friend of mine just after high school in Barrington. You hit the nail on the head as far as his personality. I have the pleasure of coaching his nephew Jeff, who was named after the uncle he has never met. I approach talking with him about his uncle with pride and honor of a man that lived a very short life yet his spirit touched many, many people. Thank you once again.

  5. Thanks for your comment. I remember Jeff was married to Pati but not sure I met her, but remember a photo, or something… I’m really glad you found my tribute, and glad I knew Jeff on my own life’s journey as it was enriched by his presence. I hope Pati is doing well as I can’t imagine losing a spouse at such a young age. It must of been a real shake up in her life. One of Jeff’s friends was Rick Lindenmuth and I was Rick’s roommate at OSU. Regards, Nick Buccalo.

  6. Thank you for this beautiful post and tribute to Jeff. You captured his spirit perfectly. Jeff was married to my sister Pati. He was a tremendous brother in law but more importantly an incredible son, brother, husband, friend and Marine. After 29 years so many of us still feel his loss and absence. His smile was infectious like that of his personality. He exuded the pride of being a Marine. God bless you Jeff, your sacrifice for your country and countrymen. Rest in God’s peace in heaven. Pam Holmes

    1. I remember Jeff and Pati very well from OSU. Jeff was my doorman at the Thirsty I and Pati frequently kept him company on the nights he worked. They were a great, happy couple. God bless you Jeff. ….Bill

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