Ohio veterans group honors all chaplains at the request of Father Joseph Piskura, who was originally selected to receive the award
INDEPENDENCE, OHIO—Father Joseph Piskura, a retired Catholic United States Army chaplain, accepted a local “Veteran of the Year” award Saturday, Feb. 14, on behalf of all U.S. Military chaplains, past and present. The Joint Veterans Council of Cuyahoga County(JVCOCC) presented the award during its 90th anniversary installation and awards luncheon at the Embassy Suites in Independence near Cleveland, Ohio. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D. , Archbishop for the Military Services, was among speakers, including Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Rajmund Kopec of the Army’sChief of Chaplains Office, and more than 300 guests in attendance.
The JVCOCC originally selected Father Piskura of Cleveland to receive the award, but at his request, presented it instead to all of the more than 4,000 chaplains now serving in the U.S. Military, as well as those who have served throughout the nation’s history.
Father Piskura, 85, is a 27-year Army veteran who retired in 1990 at the rank of colonel. Like Archbishop Broglio, a Cleveland Heights native, he is an alumnus of Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. Upon his 1947 high school graduation and 1954 priestly ordination, Father Piskura joined the Army Reserve in 1959. He went on active duty four years later, serving in Vietnam, among other places, with the 25th Infantry Division and196th Light Infantry Brigade. Father Piskura earned numerous military awards, including the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in accepting the award, Father Piskura said:
“I am so thankful to God for the privilege of serving our nation in uniform… We are grateful for all the chaplains we have worked with and all the chaplains’ assistants… We are so thankful for the people who have served, and are serving in the military; the people who have enriched our lives so much… there are some people and some groups who would like nothing better than to have the chaplaincy — not only the military chaplaincy, but all federal chaplaincies —declared unconstitutional… We are grateful to you because by your presence here, we know that will never come about… There are too many people like you who feel that the chaplaincy is part of our nation’s heritage, that existed from the very beginning of our nation… As I look over this gathering, I see people who utterly love their country, I see people who want our country to stay free and strong and safe. I see people who truly realize that freedom is not free. I see people who so heartily support the members of our armed forces, and I see people who made Cleveland truly a military-friendly city. That means a lot.”
Archbishop Broglio said he wanted to join the JVCOCC in recognizing all chaplains, ”to thank them for making religious liberty not a slogan, but a reality in the armed forces.” He noted the special role of chaplains in assuring ”that someone in the military is not forced to renounce his First Amendment rights while he or she puts his or her life on the line to defend those rights for the rest of us.” Speaking on behalf of fellow chaplains, Father Kopec said, ”We are here to care for a soldier’s soul and heart. We are here to bring hope.”