Induction comes one day after Catholic Army Chaplain posthumously awarded Medal of Honor
THE PENTAGON— Korean War hero and Catholic U.S. Army Chaplain Father Captain Emil J. Kapaun was inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes Friday, more than 61 years after his death on May 23, 1951 in a North Korean prisoner-of-war camp. In a Pentagon ceremony attended by members of Father Kapaun’s family and surviving fellow POWs as well as two young men who attribute their recovery from life-threatening conditions to miraculous intervention by Father Kapaun whom the Catholic Church is considering for sainthood, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hailed the late priest who exhibited extraordinary heroism in battle at Unsan and following capture by Chinese forces on November 2, 1950.
Secretary Hagel said:
“In a day when heroes, real heroes, are hard to find, at a time when America is searching for a center of gravity, to believe in its leaders, believe once again in its institutions, it’s particularly important that we grab ahold of people like Father Kapaun, and not just acknowledge those acts of heroism and those great, astounding acts of gallantry, and what he did as a clergyman and a man of the cloth, but the composite—who he was, what he was about. It was not just moral courage. It was really about moral conviction. It was about integrity. Character and courage are the two indispensible elements of a person’s life.”
The induction ceremony came one day after President Barrack Obama awarded Father Kapaun the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, at the White House. At the Pentagon on Friday, Father Kapaun’s nephew, Ray Kapaun, delivered acceptance remarks on behalf of his late uncle. Addressing the survivors of the North Korean prisoner-of-war camp where the priest died after contracting pneumonia, Ray Kapaun said:
“I know Father Emil, if he were standing up here today, I know he would look back on these last two days and say, ‘Aw shucks! Are you kidding me? You guys did all of this for me? All I was really doing was my job. All I was doing is what I needed to do. All I was doing was what God directed me to do. There were a lot braver men than what I am.’ But he would also look out at his POW buddies, and I know he would walk over to you guys today and wrap his arms around you, and he would say, ‘I’m so happy you guys made it home. But please, please don’t be sad for me, because I made it home, too.’”
About the Medal of Honor:
The Medal of Honor is awarded to a member of the Armed Forces who distinguishes themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while:
- engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
- engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
- serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.
About the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS):
The AMS was created as an independent archdiocese by Pope John Paul II in 1985 as the only Catholic jurisdiction responsible for endorsing and granting faculties for priests to serve as chaplains in the U.S. military and VA Medical Centers.
AMS-endorsed priests serve at more than 220 U.S. military installations in 29 countries, making the AMS the nation’s only global archdiocese. AMS-endorsed chaplains also serve at 153 VA Medical Centers throughout the U.S.
The AMS service population also includes American Catholic civilians working for the federal government in 134 countries, but currently, due to limited resources, the AMS cannot adequately serve this population.
Worldwide, an estimated 1.8 million Catholics depend on the AMS to meet their spiritual and sacramental needs.
For more information on the Archdiocese for the Military Services, visit www.milarch.org, the only official Web site for Catholics in the military and for the Cause of Father Vincent Capodanno, M.M.