Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11th, honoring military veterans who served in the United States Armed Forces.
Within this broad category of veterans is a special class… those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Within this special group are five Catholic priests who have received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest and most prestigious military decoration for valor. Let me mention one of them.
Vincent Robert Capodanno, born on February 13, 1929, in Staten Island, New York, was the tenth child of Italian immigrants, Vincent Robert Capodanno, Sr. and Rachel Basile Capodanno. Through the example of his parents, Vincent Jr. experienced the dignity of hard work, pride of family, strength of ethnic solidarity and most especially, love of their Catholic faith.
Vincent was ordained in 1958 by Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York. He sought permission to join the Navy Chaplain Corps intending to serve the increasing number of Marine troops in Vietnam. During Holy Week of 1966, Father Capodanno reported to the 7th Marines in Vietnam. As the chaplain for the battalion, his immediate focus was the young enlisted troops or “Grunts.” He became a constant companion to the Marines: living, eating, and sleeping in the same conditions of the men.
It was during his second tour on September 4, 1967, with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines that Father Vincent Capodanno made the ultimate sacrifice. While moving about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded, an exploding mortar round inflicted multiple wounds to his arms and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand. He continued to provide encouragement by voice and example. He sighted and ran to the assistance of a wounded corpsman where he administered medical and spiritual attention. Under fire, Father Capodanno, the victim of 27 bullet wounds, died faithfully performing his final act as a good and faithful servant of God. His last recorded words to a wounded marine were , “Stay quiet Marine. You will be okay. Someone will be here to help you soon. God is with us all this day.”
Father Capodanno was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1969. His cause for canonization has been opened and in 2006 he was declared a servant of God.
Fr. Vincent we ask for your prayers for each of us who remain on the spiritual battlefield of life.