The Catholic Defender: Father Vincent Capodanno Medal of Honor, Servant of God


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.

There were a number of retired Soldiers, Air Force, Nary, Marines present.

I struck up a conversation with Mr. McGrath as we were leaving for the parking lot.

He told me of his service in Viet Nam, 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. May 19, 2002, his cause for canonization began by the Vatican. He is now refereed to as "Servant of God"! Father Capodanno's official Medal of Honor citation is as follows: 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.

Vincent Robert Capodanno, born on February 13, 1929, in Staten Island, New York, was the tenth child of Italian immigrants, Vincent Robert Capodanno, Sr. and Rachel Basile Capodanno. Through the example of his parents, Vincent Jr. experienced the dignity of hard work, pride of family, strength of ethnic solidarity and most especially, love of their Catholic faith.

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