ok, this is working now.. this was very very very weird..
I was validating first (client-side) and for some reason it wasn't connecting to the valdation.js.. I put an alert to test and then it did... I know this sounds exceedingly bizarre, but this is what it was.. for some reason the validation wasn't coming thru..
(actually, even though I was testing at first with traditional methods, I actually connect to the server with ajax.. so am wrapping the ajax-call in an if-validate conditional, the ajax connects to the send-mail JSP (and I send params thru ajax, on success I hide the form and print ty-msg, etc), but for some very odd reason it was just not connecting to the validation.js (diff file from where ajax code is) UNTIL I put an alert in it.. then it worked.. then I removed alert, and now it works.. again, I know this sounds really really weird, but this is what happened... (am hoping it will still work tomorrow...;-)
just one of those truly bizarre things that happen every once in a while.. that make the life of the developer so interesting....