From the Pastor's Desk


Memorial Day will be observed on Monday, May 28th and commemorates all men and women who have died in military service for the United States. One such person to reflect on is Father Emil Kapaun, a Catholic chaplain in the US Army.

Born in a small Czech community in Pilsen, Kansas, in 1916, and was ordained as a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita in 1940. Kapaun functioned as a chaplain for soldiers during World War II, though he didn't see any combat during that time. In July 1950, Kapaun's unit, the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, was one of the first American forces sent to South Korea during the Korean War. During the fierce fighting, he quickly earned a reputation for being a fearless soldier who risked his life to minister to the men fighting on the front lines. Apart from saying Mass and visiting and praying with men in foxholes, Kapaun would risk his life to administer the sacraments to the dying and to retrieve wounded soldiers. Numerous times, he barely escaped with his life.

In November of that year, Kapaun and his unit were overrun by Chinese forces outside of Unsan, North Korea. Through the night and into the next day, he continually risked his life to bring many wounded men to safety, and eventually chose to stay with the wounded rather than retreat. Kapaun and the other men were captured by Chinese fighters and forced to march the 60 miles to a prison camp along the Yalu River. Throughout the journey, he saved several soldiers by helping to carry them.

At the camp, Kapaun cleaned others' wounds and offered spiritual aid. His faith never wavered. On Easter in 1951, he defied his captors by celebrating Mass with a makeshift Crucifix. He continued to offer spiritual solace to troops until a blood clot formed in one of his legs. His captors deinied him medical assistance, and he died on May 23, 1951. Army Chaplain Emil Kapaun, was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2013 and the Vatican is considering him for sainthood. Only one of 5 chaplains to receive the nation's highest award, he is also the most decorated chaplain in U.S. history.

Hank Biddles
CDR, USN (Retired)