PECATONICA– Jim Sacia thought his life course was set in 1962 when he joined the Army.
What he didn’t know was that course would include 28 years as an FBI agent.
Sacia, 75, of Pecatonica, well-known regionally as the former state rep of the 89th District, has a great deal of respect for the military, and attributes his Army experience as the defining event that changed him from a boy to a man.
“The Army grew me up,” he said.
He loved the structure, and the challenges he was forced to conquer, In the Army, he excelled, enlisting as a private and promoted an E-5 sergeant within 16 months.
“I was damn good at what I did, and I knew it,” Sacia said. “I was proud of who I was and what I could do.”
In many ways, it was his desire to make it as an infantry officer that set him on the path to the FBI.
When he returned home to rural LaCrosse, Wisconsin, in 1965, he put his plan to make a career out of the military into action, juggling his work getting an education with his part-time job as River Falls police officer and with his service in the Wisconsin National Guard, where he earned the title of Army ranger.
He was well on his way solidifying his military career when River Falls Police Chief Perry Larson asked him a question: “Jim, why don’t you apply to become an FBI agent?”
Sacia talked to a regional agent, but still was on the fence. He didn’t want his military time and training to go to waste. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and he knew he was a valuable asset. Plus he knew he the odds of getting an FBI post were slim.
He’s not a gambling man, but he’s always willing to take a chance, so he applied, still planning a military career.
What pushed him over the fence was the letter from J. Edgar Hoover. If he finished his college studies and was given an honorable discharge from the Wisconsin National Guard, he would be hired as an FBI agent.
“My only regret to this day, and it drives [my wife] Jenny right through the roof, is I never went to Vietnam,” Sacia said. “I’m an infantry officer, I’m ranger-qualified, what is needed more at the height of the war?”
Sacia takes readers on a journey from his childhood home on the farm in central Wisconsin to his life as an FBI agent in his new book “Not in My Wildest Dreams: Memoirs of a Veteran FBI Agent.”
In it, he talks about veering off the path to a military career and clears up some misconceptions the public may have about the FBI.
“The FBI is the men and women in the trenches that do the work. I would hope that my book would portray what it’s like to be an agent in the FBI.”
TO GET THE BOOK
In addition to a 28-year career as an FBI agent. Jim Sacia represented Illinois' 89th District for 11 years before retiring to his farm in Pecatonica, where he's also owner and co-founder of Northern Illinois Tractor & Equipment.
"Not in My Wildest Dreams: Memoirs of a Veteran FBI Agent," published by Page Publishing, is available online at the Apple iTunes store, Amazon, Google Play, or Barnes and Noble, and from the publisher at 866-315-2708.
Folks also can pick up a copy at NITE Equipment, 2388 N. Conger Road in Pecatonica.
The book costs $17, $6 of which is donated to help wounded veterans.