LIBERTY — Friends and veterans joined members of the Father Vincent R. Capodanno MM Memorial Post 1974 of the Catholic War Veterans of the United States for an Oct. 15 Memorial Mass honoring Father Capodanno at Our Lady of Mercy Country Home, the Post’s home.
The principal celebrant was Father Charles Rowe, Vicar General for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, with Msgr. Ralph Kaiser, former Navy Chaplain, Father Kenneth Criqui, former Air Force Chaplain, and Precious Blood Father Richard Colbert, Chaplain of Post 1974, concelebrating. Catholic War Veterans National Commander, Arminda Crawford, her husband George and Marine Corps veteran Frederick Tancke also attended.
Sept. 4, 1967— on a small, bloody rise there was a fierce battle with the 5th Marine Regiment outnumbered 5 – 1 by the North Vietnamese. Navy/Marine chaplain Maryknoll Father Vincent R. Capodanno, affectionately known as the “Grunt Padre,” moved about the battlefield comforting and ministering to the wounded and dying.
Fred Tancke was a Marine assigned to take out a machine gunner and was in a hole when his rifle jammed. Father Capodanno jumped into the hole with him, then noticed that several Marines were down with a corpsman trying to work on one of them. Father Capodanno ran to the fallen marines and began anointing the dead and consoling the wounded. When he moved to shield the corpsman, a barrage of more than 27 bullets killed him. Tancke is the last living man to see Father Capodanno alive.
He was the first to recommend Father Capodanno for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his selfless sacrifice, which was awarded posthumously in January, 1969.
Father Capodanno was recognized as a Servant of God in 2006 by the Archdiocese for Military Service, the initial step on the road to sainthood.
In his homily, Father Rowe pointed out that “the service of the Catholic War Veterans is enriched by partaking in this most holy Eucharist.”
He continued, “Organizations for veterans are based on grateful recollection and mutual support. Veterans … have defended their nation. …bonded together by a common history of having risked life and limb to protect our beloved homeland. Veterans come together both to remember comrades who have passed on, especially those who died on the field of battle, and … to assist those who remain. Special solicitude is shown to those who still bear the scars of combat in mind and body.
“The holy Eucharist is also about grateful recollection and mutual support. At Mass, we gratefully remember our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He paid the ultimate price, sacrificing his life on the altar of the cross, in the battle for our salvation. At Mass, the power of Christ’s paschal victory is conveyed to us in Holy Communion. Christ’s example enlightens us; his grace strengthens us to love one another as he has loved us. And we give proof of this love by the service we offer to one another.
“The Catholic War Veterans of the United States … bring to the noble duty of commemorating and helping veterans the unique graces that the Gospel offers. To those who have fallen, our faith offers hope of resurrection. To those … traumatized by spiritual wounds that no human physician can treat, we bring the healing balm of the Holy Spirit which cures every ill. To one another, we offer the precious charity of Jesus Christ that inspires us to love without counting the cost, trusting that his love makes it all worthwhile.”
Following the Mass, Commander Crawford, assisted by Father Rowe, installed post commander John F. Kopp into the office of National Director for a 3-year term and member of the National Board of Directors. He is the only national office holder in the organization whose state does not have a department (state-wide head office) and only the one post.
Commander Kopp said that Post 1974’s chaplain, Father Colbert, is a resident at Our Lady of Mercy Country Home and ministers to and celebrates Mass for the residents. He is not a veteran, but is a post member. Priests, whether veterans or not, are welcomed as members, adding that Bishop Johnston has been a member since 2015.
The Father Vincent R. Capodanno Memorial Post was authorized Nov. 24, 2015 by Commander Crawford. The post now has about 30 members, from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Alabama. It is the only CWV post in those four states.
The memorial service began with Commander Kopp’s explanation of the events involved in the post choosing the name, “Father Vincent Capodanno, MM Memorial Post,” commenting that “he, and many other post members, truly believe that the Holy Spirit was very instrumental in the selection.” Commander Kopp then introduced Tancke who “presented a very moving and emotional discussion” on the priest’s final hours.
The ceremony concluded with the reading the names of all the Catholic Chaplains who died while on active duty during wartime, concluding with the poem “Our Dead” and Taps, played by American Legion Post 95-member Gene Welch.
Father Rowe later told The Key, “I would also congratulate Commander Kopp on his appointment. It is quite an honor and a great service to our Catholic vets!”
To learn more about Post 1974 of the Catholic War Veterans, visit www.cwv.org or email Post1974@cwv.org.