Heroic Priesthood | Fr. Emil Kapaun: Medal of Honor (Korean War)

Born in the small Czech farming community of Pilsen, Kansas on April 20, 1916, Emil Kapaun became a Catholic priest and U.S. Army Chaplain. During the Battle of Unsan in November of 1950, Kapaun worked tirelessly to comfort the suffering and retrieve the wounded from the battlefield. One of the soldiers he retrieved was a wounded Chinese soldier, who helped him negotiate a surrender after he was surrounded by enemy troops. Kapaun was taken as a prisoner of war. War records document Kapaun saving a soldier's life who had been shot and then wounded by a grenade, which broke his ankle and shredded his legs with shrapnel. Korean soldiers would kill any U.S. prisoners who could not walk to the camp, so Kapaun carried the soldier 30 miles on a prisoners’ march. Kapaun was then taken to prison camp number five in Pyoktong, a bombed-out village used as a detainment center. The soldiers at the camp were severely mistreated, facing malnourishment, dysentery, and a lack of warm clothing to counter an extremely cold winter. Kapaun would do all he could for the soldiers, washing their soiled clothes, retrieving fresh water, and attending to their wounds. When he developed pneumonia and a blood clot in his leg, the chaplain was denied medical treatment. He died in 1951. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. On this Memorial Day we remember Father Emil Kapaun and the U.S. Armed Forces men and women who died in service to their country. Peace be with you!

Heroic Priesthood | Fr. Vincent Capodanno: Medal of Honor (Vietnam War)

On Sept. 4, 1967, a 38-year-old Capodanno was with his Marines in South Vietnam’s Quang Tin province when his unit learned that another platoon was in danger of being overrun by enemy forces. The chaplain, who was at the company command post, decided to leave his safe haven and run through an area riddled with gunfire to get to the platoon under attack. Despite the hail of gunfire, explosions and other chaos at the scene, Capodanno moved around the battlefield, giving last rites to the dying and aid to the wounded. He was eventually hit by an exploding mortar, which caused multiple arm and leg wounds and severed part of his right hand. But he didn’t give up. Father Capodanno refused any medical help and instead directed other Marines to help their wounded comrades. He calmly continued to move around the battlefield, encouraging the Marines to follow his lead. When he noticed a wounded Marine who was directly in the line of fire, Capodanno rushed in to try to help. He was within inches of the Marine when a burst of machine gun fire went off. Capodanno was hit 25 times and died at the scene. The chaplain’s loss was immeasurable. His bravery had inspired the men around him so much that he went on to posthumously earn the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star. On January 7, 1969, his family received the Medal of Honor on his behalf. On this Memorial Day we remember Catholic priest, U.S. Navy Chaplain, Father Vincent Capodanno and the U.S. Armed Forces men and women who died in service to their country. (Credit U.S. DOD)