Faith In The Line of Fire
At Catholic Advocate, we strive to highlight the moments in our country’s history where faith and patriotism intersect. The two seem to be inseparable, and there are so many inspiring stories of those whose lives were dedicated to serving God and country, past and present.
One of the most notable tales is that of Father Vincent Capodanno, a battlefield Navy chaplain whose bravery during Vietnam rightfully earned him the title of “hero.” Described by the Marines he ministered to as “radiating Christ,” Fr. Capodanno’s story is at once heartbreaking and awesomely inspiring.
Marines affectionately called Father Capodanno the “grunt padre” for his ability to relate well with soldiers and his willingness to risk his life to minister to the men.
It was during heavy fighting outside the village of Chau Lam on Sept. 4, 1967, that Father Capodanno died. Arriving with ammunition, Father Vincent’s chopper had to land in the middle of the battlefield.
First, part of the priest’s hand was shot off. Then a mortar shredded his arm. “Most guys would stop with one wound,” said Hamfeldt. “He kept going. He was willing to risk his life to save ours.” He received the wound that killed him after he administered the sacrament of the sick to a wounded soldier. Hamfeldt said he wishes he could have taken that bullet for Father Vincent.
Fr. Capodanno is the subject of a fantastic biography by Father Daniel Mode, and there are rumors of a feature film about his life. In 2001, EWTN featured Fr. Capodanno in a special presentation on Memorial Day. Fr. Capodanno remains etched in the memories of all who knew him and deeply into history as not only an American hero, but a Catholic hero.