Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 23. Major Capers was honored with a parade and homecoming ceremony in his birthplace of Bishopville, SC on August 28. Visit United American Patriots to view photos and videos from the event.

We’ve all seen those Hollywood films where the protagonist has a resume that is so full of incredible feats of derring-do that it can’t possibly be true. Well, in regard to Major James Capers, every word of it IS true. Major Capers is a legend, not only in the Marine Corps but in the Special Operations community as well. 

Capers’ biography does in fact read like a Hollywood script and what is even more incredible is that it probably is understated. Capers fought plenty of our nation’s enemies during the course of his storied and amazing career. He also fought against racism and prejudice in our own country, where some NCOs and Officers refused to believe that he was worthy of being counted among the best in Special Operations.

Capers was recommended for the Medal of Honor but it was downgraded to the Silver Star. There is now an active push to get his award upgraded but it remains to be seen whether or not it will ever happen during the Major’s lifetime. He’s now 82 years old.

Capers was born in Bishopville, South Carolina, in the Jim Crowe south, just three generations removed from slavery. His father moved to Baltimore and it was a while before the rest of the family could move up with him and be reunited. Capers graduated high school in 1956. He remembers the military recruiters coming to the school looking for recruits. “You had to register for the draft, back then,” he said. 

“You had the obligation to serve your country and it started with registering for the draft. I liked what the Marine recruiter had to say and the opportunities that the Corps had available, so I joined up.” Capers was in the infantry and after his first hitch would be up, he would have to face the possibility of getting out with little hope of finding a job on the outside at that time. 

But he had found a home in the Marine Corps: it was a good fit for him and vice versa. Capers asked his girlfriend, Dottie, to move out to California, where they would marry and start a new life together. Capers reenlisted to go to the Marine Corps’ Force Recon, the Marines’ Special Operations component. He would spend the next three years with Force Recon at Camp Pendleton. 

He would go to jump school and scuba school; yet, still, some old prejudices remained. “Black people can’t swim was all I heard,” Capers remembered. “And I conducted three combat dives and a combat swim in Vietnam and people still persisted with the ‘Blacks can’t swim’ narrative around me.”