Driving around in an extended golf cart, giving Veterans with not-so-able legs a ride to and from their cars, Carl Cada meets many people throughout his day. Still, few people arriving at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System’s Palo Alto Division know the extraordinary 97 years of life their driver has lived.
Born in 1915, Cada recalls going on cattle drives in Idaho with his father and brothers, and riding horses in Los Angeles as a young man. When asked what his secret is to remaining healthy and active at his age, Cada states, "I still exercise every morning, I eat healthy food, and it runs in the family!"
Before Cada started his work as volunteer at VAPAHCS in November 1978, his service to his country and others began when he enlisted in the Navy just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In his more than three years with the Navy, Cada’s career took him from California to the Pacific arena and back.
His first duty station, known today as Moffett Field, was the Naval Air Station, Sunnyvale. Cada worked with blimps and other aircraft searching for enemy submarines in the Pacific. He went on to study at Treasure Island in San Francisco, where he developed his leadership skills by supervising an underwater riveting team.
Later, he found himself aboard the USS Montrose, an attack transport ship, where he recalls a particular day when he helped to extinguish flames after more than one thousand pairs of shoes destined for troops caught fire. As the USS Montrose made its way across the Pacific, Cada was responsible for damage control of the Montrose and nearby ships. As part of this mission, Cada recalls the experience of being aboard the Montrose as it prepared to land troops in Japan, shooting down two attacking kamikaze pilots in the process.
Upon his return home following WWII, Cada went back to his civilian life, finding a job in construction. His hard work paid off with a promotion to construction supervisor. Ultimately, he formed his own construction company. He was fortunate enough to retire in 1977, bringing his story full circle to volunteering at VAPAHCS.
In his almost 34 years of volunteering, Cada has accumulated more than 11,000 hours of volunteer time at VA alone. Currently helping in the transportation section of Voluntary Services, he has served Veterans in numerous capacities, including being a long-time member of the American Legion, an active philanthropist, and a contributor to numerous other civic organizations.
When asked about what he attributes to his ongoing desire to give back, Cada is quick to give his wife, Doris, accolades for her dedication to the community and country by helping the visually impaired. She has taught braille for decades, and once received a citation from the Library of Congress for her devotion to this endeavor.
While he does plan to slow down a little in the near future, he still devotes a significant amount of time to his volunteer work.
“Carl is one of the most dependable and committed volunteers we ever had. His example sets the bar high for other volunteers and serves as a model for dependability and reliability for all of us,” said William Ball, chief of volunteer services at VAPAHCS.
Cada is unique among nearly 2,500 volunteers at VAPAHCS due to his longstanding commitment, but is joined by many in the spirit of dedication and loyalty to those who served. Find out on the VAPAHCS Volunteer page how you can contribute today!