Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Grunt Padre

Photo by  Sgt. Jan M. Bender

In military jargon, especially the Army and Marines, a Grunt is an infantryman. They are the groundpounders, the ones on the lines, in the mud, in the cold, in the heat, dodging bullets and doing the work that modern technology still can't reproduce. You can have all the jets, tanks, and computerized smart bombs, but they basically exist to do one thing, support the Grunts. The Grunts need people to provide fire support, medical aid, beans, bullets and transportation. Along with all that the Grunts also need spiritual support, in the case of Marines this means the Naval Chaplain Corps and their enlisted assistants the Religious Program Specialist.

In 1949 Vincent Capodanno joined the Maryknoll Fathers in which he ultimately received a bachelor's degree in religious instruction and then was assigned to Taiwan. After seven years in Taiwan serving aboriginal Taiwanese he was sent to a Maryknoll school in Hong Kong. He then requested a new assignment as a Navy Chaplain. In April of 1966 he was sent to the 7th Marine Regiment in Vietnam. When his tour with the 7th Marines ended he requested an extention and after serving in a hospital was assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment.

Father Capodanno died serving his Grunts. September 4th, 1967, when elements from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines came across a large North Vietnamese unit a battle ensued. The Marines were outnumbered so elements from two other companies were sent to their aid and Father Capodanno requested to go.

From (my clarification in the brackets)
"The fighting was fierce, hand to hand at times, and the platoon was in danger of being overrun. Father Capodanno went among the wounded and dying, giving last rites and taking care of his Marines. Wounded once in the face and suffering another wound that almost severed his hand, Father Capodanno moved to help a wounded corpsman [Navy medic] only yards from an enemy machinegun. Father Capodanno died taking care of one of his men."
For his service and selfless sacrifice, Father Capodanno was awarded the Medal of Honor.
He was declared Servant of God on May 21, 2006

Semper Fidelis Father Capodanno, ora pro nobis.

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