By Debbie Gregory.
In a posthumous ceremony honoring a fallen Korean War chaplain, Captain Emil Kapaun, President Obama presented the veteran’s family with one of the military’s highest decorations for valor, the Medal of Honor.
Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest, served during the Korean conflict June 1950, until his death on May 23, 1951, in a prisoner of war hospital. The previous awards received by Kapaun’s family are the Bronze Star for Valor, plus the Distinguished Service Cross for his honorable self-sacrifices.
Kapaun, as with most chaplains, followed the creed of sacrificing his well-being for that of his men, and embraced the Marine’s mantra… “Leave no man behind!”
Father Kapaun was deployed to Korea with the Eighth Calvary Regimen, in June 1950. He and his fellow soldiers endured heavy, hostile-fire from North Korean enemy attacks. The chaplain maneuvered through artillery and gunfire to assist the wounded, man-down, with aid, and to elicit comfort for the dying.
His troops retreated, but Kapaun remained behind with the incapacitated, unmovable wounded soldiers. He helped implement a peaceful surrender of wounded troops, plus intervened in the execution of wounded Sergeant Herbert Miller, putting his own life in jeopardy, but staying the death-decision.
Kapaun was a POW from November 02, 1950 until he succumbed in a prison hospital from lack of food and adequate medical attention, and passed away on May 23, 1951.
The Roman Catholic Church honors Kapaun with the “Servant of God’” title. The honor of sainthood is under consideration by the church and is promoted and supported by the Diocese of Wichita.
This is the first time a member of the ministry has been honored with the Medal of Honor. Those who minister to our troops are courageous men and women often serving in the front lines. They provide comfort and spiritual fortification to those who serve. We salute all ministers, chaplains, priests, rabbis and other spiritual leaders that are making a significant contribution to the well-being of our troops.
Military Connection features the weekly “Adopt A Chaplain” column.