Friday, April 16, 2010
A Shepherd in Combat Boots, Chaplain Emil Kapaun of the 1st Cavalry Division
What makes a hero? In our modern society, we often associate heroes with professional sports. Some "famous" player leaps into the air making an unbelievable catch in the final moments of a game resulting in national attention. But there is another kind of hero, the quiet, unsung hero, someone who selflessly places himself in harms way to save the life of another. Fr. Emil Kapaun is one such hero.
Father Emil Kapaun deserves more than recognition, honor, and respect. He deserves to be emulated. That in some way is the motive behind his actions, to have others follow Christ and that also is the harder thing for us to do. He did what many of us falter at doing. He did the right thing; he had a properly formed conscience based on the teachings of Christ and he acted on it. He placed himself in harms way over and over again because he was ministering to Christ living in each one of the people he was assisting, whether or not that person recognized Christ.
Father Emil did not do this to receive a fancy trophy or shiny medal, but because he loved others with the compassion of Christ. May we all follow his selfless example in our daily lives when we are called to act upon our conscience even when the world and those around us would act otherwise.
William L Maher shares Fr. Emil's life story in his fascinating, well-documented biography, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, Chaplain Emil Kapaun of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Surrounded by Chinese enemy forces, cut off from help, and grenades flying, Fr. Emil chose to stay with the wounded American soldiers rather than try to escape. Refusing to leave the wounded men, they were eventually herded into prisoner of war camps after a grueling, heartless march of freezing temperatures and little food over mountainous terrain of close to 100 miles. Mercilessly, men to weak to walk were shot and killed. His heroism, faith, and courage bolstered the morale and saved the lives of many others.
Fr. Emil was a parish priest who served in both World War II and the Korean Conflict. He experienced the horrors of prisoner of war camp in Korea, where he died, trying to make it a better place for others. Everyone should read the chapter on the tactics the Communist Chinese used to break down the morale of the soldiers in prison camp. There are some very interesting analogies to our present society.
From the opening pages, the reader is drawn into Fr. Emil's life story. In this hard to put down biography, we learn of a man who was willing to take up Christ's cross and follow him.