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Serving God and country: The story of Army chaplain Father Emil Kapaun
May 28, 2021
On May 23, 1951, Father Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain, died in a North Korean prison camp, and his body buried in an unmarked grave. His remains were among those of 1,868 servicemen who were returned to U.S. custody as part of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, but his could not be differentiated from the others. Seventy years later, with advances in forensic techniques, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced in early March that his remains had been identified and will be flown from Hawaii to Wichita, Kansas, on Sept. 25.
In 1993, Pope St. John Paul II declared Father Kapaun a Servant of God, the first step toward canonization. President Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Honor, and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints is investigating his life for his possible advancement toward sainthood. Several alleged miracles have been attributed to his intercession. His exploits on the battlefield and in the prison camp have been chronicled in books, magazines and a TV show. Buildings, chapels, a high school, several Knights of Columbus councils and an annual pilgrimage walking from Wichita to his former parish in Pilsen, Kansas, have been named for him.
Who was this soldier-priest who merited such honors?