|Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass with chaplain's |
assistant Patrick J. Schuler, using the hood of a Jeep
as his altar Oct 7, 1950. Kapaun was taken prisoner
just a month later and died in a North Korean
POW camp in less than a year.
From Wichita Eagle
Emil Kapaun, a priest from Kansas celebrated for his actions during the Korean War and in a North Korean prisoner of war camp, will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama, the nation’s highest military award for bravery.
Former Kansas Congressman Todd Tiahrt of Goddard called The Eagle on Friday and sent a note he had received from an officer in the Pentagon about preparations for a White House ceremony April 11. Tiahrt later posted the letter on his Facebook page, which said that Kapaun also will be honored April 12 at the Pentagon.
Obama is expected to present the medal to Kapaun’s sister-in-law, Helen, and her children. The president called Helen Kapaun at her Bel Aire home in December to tell her the news.
Rep. Mike Pompeo asked the House Armed Services committee on Thursday to approve legislation that would help Father Emil Kapaun receive the Medal of Honor.
Pompeo, R-Wichita, explained to the committee that most Medal of Honor winners were chosen for that distinction within two years of the heroic actions they performed. There are military rules imposing that time restriction.
Pompeo asked the committee to waive those rules in light of Kapaun's many heroic acts.
"Father Emil Kapaun... is an inspiration to many around the world and a true example of heroism,'' Pompeo said during his testimony.
If the committee, and then Congress, approves the legislation that Pompeo and other members of the Kansas congressional delegation have introduced, it would clear the way for the Secretary of Defense to recommend to President Obama that Kapaun get the award.
That recommendation, if it comes, would not necessarily ensure that Kapaun gets the honor; the Department of Defense says that only the president can decide who gets the Medal of Honor.
Kapaun, a priest and a U.S. Army chaplain, died in a North Korean prison camp in May 1951.
Before that, according to fellow soldiers, he saved hundreds of soldiers' lives, first by dragging battlefield wounded through gunfire to safety, then by rallying soldiers to survive torture and starvation in the prison camps.
Military leaders, including a Secretary of the Army and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have recommended him for the Medal of Honor. The Catholic church, meanwhile, has investigated his eligibility for sainthood for decades.
Kapaun, after his death, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross — the Army's second-highest award for valor —for his many heroic acts in battle before his capture.
But his fellow POWs have said he deserves the Medal of Honor for repeated acts of gallantry in the prison camps, where he saved hundreds by boiling water, picking lice off sick prisoners, stealing food and giving it away, and inspiring many other starving prisoners to survive.
"Chaplain Kapaun repeatedly risked his own life to save hundreds of fellow Americans," Pompeo said. "His extraordinary courage and leadership inspired thousands of prisoners to survive hellish conditions and resist Chinese indoctrination.
"His actions reflect great credit upon himself, the 1st Cavalry Division and the United States Army."
Kapaun grew up in Pilsen, in Marion County, and served there as a parish priest before joining the Army. He served in World War II and in many battles in Korea before he was captured.
Read more about Father Emil Kapaun's life here