The Catholic Defender: Two Catholic Priests That were Awarded The Medal of Honor

Having the chance to participate and attend Mass at Meeker Colorado in their Church that is still in use since 1912, it is a very beautiful Church.

After the Mass, I had the opportunity to meet several of the Parishioners. These are faithful people who love the Lord and the Catholic Faith.

I met a Doctor and his wife who moved there a couple of years ago from New Mexico. They are really excited about their faith. I spoke with another couple who had been married for 51 years.

Bob was raised in Kansas who (as a boy) personally knew Father Kapaun, a Catholic Military Chaplain of the United States Army.

Father Kapaun was one of a number of Catholic Priests who have served their Faith and their Country with heroic fortitude and courage. As Bob already alluded, Father Emil J. Kapaun was from Wichita, Kansas and on Holy Thursday, 1944 he entered the United States Chaplaincy. In 1948 he was sent to Japan before he went to Korea in July 1950.

That On coming November 2 (All Soul's Day), Father Kapaun was taken prisoner by the Chinese and North Koreans. He was in their prisons for seven months. Father Kapaun spent himself in heroic service to all the Soldiers serving with him as a POW. Ignoring his own health he continued to serve those he considered his flock, which was all of them regardless of faith background. The stories of his heroism was reported by eyewitnesses who claimed he did the work of three men. He would find ways of getting food to give to those starving from the Chinese and Koreans. "He would sneak past the guards to visit the enlisted men and sick at the peril of his life".

The Communist authorities told Father Kapaun that prayer would not help his men; "medicine was the only thing that would do any good". Father Kapaun replied, "Since they aren't getting any medicine, I don't think it would hurt to try a little prayer". Capt Ray M. Dowe Jr would later say of Father Kapaun that the chaplain stole wood every morning in winter months to warm other POWs when they arose, washed the cloths of those who had dysentery and cleaned the latrines. Then Father Kapaun became ill. Father Kapaun developed a blood clot in his Left leg that prevented his daily rounds. "When he started to recover, the Chinese took him to the hospital against the directions" of the doctor, Maj Clarence L. Anderson. The chinese threw Father Kapaun in the "death room" where they neglected him until he died on May 23, 1951. The Communist killed him because they could not cope with him. According to Maj. Anderson, "He was the greatest man I have ever known".

Father recieved the "Legion of Merit", the "Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism near Unsan, when on 2 November 1950, his regiment was under attack for 36 hours. He was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" for valor while aiding a wounded soldier under intense enemy fire near Kumchon, Korea. Father Kapaun represents the finest of Americans who went to war defending life and liberty believing that America stood for those freedoms.

Recently, I was at the Copeland Center at Fort Hood Texas preparing to work on my resume when I happened to run into a retired Navy Hospital Corpsman Mike McGrath.

He and his wife were present for an event designated for retirees which I also participated.

There were a number of retired Soldiers, Air Force, Navy, Marines present. I struck up a conversation with Mr. McGrath as we were leaving for the parking lot. Mr. McGrath told me of his service in VietNam, that he had been wounded twice in battle receiving two Purple Hearts.

He also told me about a hero he knew when he was there in VietNam.

His hero was a Catholic Priest named Father Vincent Capodanno.

In reading the following “Medal of Honor” citation, I began to understand why he thought so much of this Priest.

Father Capodanno was a Marine Chaplain who served with his troops. He was killed in the service of his Country being awarded the Medal of Honor on May 19, 2002, his cause for canonization began by the Vatican. He is now referred to as “Servant of God”!

Father Capodanno’s official Medal of Honor citation is as follows:

For conspicuous gallantry

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Chaplain of the 3d Battalion, in connection with operations against enemy forces.

In response to reports that the 2d Platoon of M Company was in danger of being overrun by a massed enemy assaulting force, Lt. Capodanno left the relative safety of the company command post and ran through an open area raked with fire, directly to the beleaguered platoon.

Disregarding the intense enemy small-arms, automatic-weapons, and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded.

When an exploding mortar round inflicted painful multiple wounds to his arms and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand, he steadfastly refused all medical aid. Instead, he directed the corpsmen to help their wounded comrades and, with calm vigor, continued to move about the battlefield as he provided encouragement by voice and example to the valiant Marines.

Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately 15 yards away, Lt. Capodanno rushed a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman.

At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gun fire. By his heroic conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.

I served more than 26 years in the United States Army beginning December 1984 when I signed up as a Combat Medic.

From the very beginning, I have been privileged to serve with many Catholic priests. I am so thankful that I was strong in my Catholic Faith when I entered into the Army.

The support that my family received through the Catholic support while I served all over the world was very important to me.

While stationed in Korea, I supported our Catholic priest serving as his main RCIA instructor helping him with instruction of potential converts.

While deployed to Iraq, I served with a number of Catholic priests who served the Troops just as both Father Kapaun and Father Capodanno had done.

There are many stories of great heroism demonstrated by Catholic priests throughout America's history.

They supported troops in the most dangerous situations. May the United States always have room for Chaplains who continue to serve our Nation as they serve Our Lord, Jesus Christ in the saving of souls.

Prayer:

O Jesus, our great High Priest, Hear my humble prayers on behalf of all your priests. Give them a deep faith, a bright and firm hope and a burning love which will ever increase in the course of his priestly life.

In their loneliness, comfort them In their sorrows, strengthen them In their frustrations, point out to them that it is through suffering that the soul is purified, and show them that they are needed by the Church, they are needed by souls, they is needed for the work of redemption.

O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests, take to your heart your sons who are close to you because of their priestly ordination, and because of the power which they has received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs them so much.

Be their comfort, be their joy, be their strength, and especially help them to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy. Amen.

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