About Me

Monday, September 3, 2012

Father Capodanno - The Grunt Padre

Lt. Fr. Vincent R. Capodanno
image from Wikipedia
This morning as I was having breakfast at 8:00 am at home, the neighborhood was quiet. The only sounds I could hear were the neighbor's puddle yelping and a crow announcing its presence. Not a sound from a human or any human created devices.

As I was letting that silence soak in, I couldn't help remember how chaotic the situation must have been on Monday, 4 September 1967, in Que-Son Valley in then South Vietnam.

On that day, I was two months short of 5. My parents used to rear chickens in those days to reduce our food bills. As usual, during the morning of that day, I was probably playing with the chickens and stepping on their poo while 500 miles to the north of my hometown (Kuantan, Malaysia), US Marines were fighting the North Vietnamese Army and stepping on booby traps and mines. Among them was Father Capodanno, administering Last Rights to the dying and patching up the wounded.

That was also the day that Lt. Vincent Robert Capodanno was martyred - after obtaining 3 Purple Hearts - all in ONE day!

I first heard about Servant of God, Lt. Fr. Vincent Capodanno while doing some research on Hero Priests in 2010. I was preparing to present a vocation camp for the Confirmation Class of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Puchong, Malaysia. I wanted to showcase to these kids that priests can also be heroes, despite the media portraying all Catholic priests as sexual predators preying on children.

I created a video to highlight priests who are worth emulating that you can watch here...

My apologies to the Capodanno family for misspelling the family name.

For Christmas 2011, I bought the book titled, The Grunt Padre: Father Vincent Robert Capodanno, Vietnam, 1966-1967, for my 19-year old son, Jared. In this age, when kids have role models in small 50 Cent denominations or sound like M&M, something is seriously wrong. I hope this chronicle of Father Vincent's life will inspire him to serve and sacrifice too.

Wouldn't somebody with such a story like this inspire you more...

  During those early hours, Chaplain Capodanno received word of the battle taking place. He sat in on the morning briefing at the 3rd Battalion's Combat Operations Center. He took notes and listened to the radio reports coming in. As the elements of Company "M" and "K" prepared to load the helicopters. "Fr.Vince" requested to go with them. His Marines needed him. "It's not going to be easy" he stated. As Company "M" approached the small village of Chau Lam, the North Vietnamese opened up on the 2nd Platoon, which was caught on a small knoll, out in the open. 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 only yards from an enemy machinegun. Father Capodanno died taking care of one of his men.

For some inexplicable reason I hold Fr. Capodanno as my own hero priest. I'm not sure if it's because I wanted to be a priest when I was in my early tweens and teens, or because I was an Army Reserve Second Lieutenant or is it because he was the saint who was closest to me in time and space. I'm in the midst of reading this book and I was thrilled to read that the Grunt Padre participated in Operation Rio Blanco from Nov. 20 -27, 1966. 20th November 1966 was my 4th birthday. There's a running joke in my family that dates associated with my sister, Jackie, are jinxed - so I was amused that on her 1st birthday, May 11, 1966, Fr. Capodanno received both the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal.

I write this on the 45th anniversary (it's the 4th of September in Malaysia) of Fr. Vincent's departure into eternal life and I hope that if you are looking for a hero to emulate or a role model for today's youth, present them with this gripping book. If you think this book will help your parish priest or even your Bishop, get him a copy.

My name is Ray Lowry and I was the last Catholic priest to see Vince alive and the first to see him dead. On 6 Dec. 1966 Vince and I changed jobs; I went out to 1/7 on the Batangan Peninsula and Vince replaced me at 1st Med. Within weeks of arriving in Vietnam I had heard stories about Vince and he indeed "became a legend in his own time". His CO at 1/7, Lt.Col. Buzz Lubka, told me that Fr. Capodanno "could walk on water." He was an inspiration to me and made me a better Chaplain for knowing him. I'll never forget the night he died but that is a story in itself. Fr. Mode has indeed captured the essence of the man. I still think of Vince daily. I am honored to have known him and to have shared my life with him as a Chaplain with the Marines in Vietnam. May God grant his noble soul eternal rest

I had the ultimate priveledge to work on part of the book prior to publication. This initial introduction to Father Vincent Capodanno was life changing. Even in death, the Father continues to give a message of love. Father Mode did a fantastic job in telling of Father Vince Capodannos heroism and love for his fellow human being. He gave the ultimate sacrifice of love for his "grunts". Being the wife of a Marine, I understand secondhand the bond of the Marine Brotherhood but to see it portrayed in Father Capodannos life story, it takes on new meaning. When you read it, you too will have a cause to change for the better. Fr. Capodanno is truly an inspiration! Donna Bragg

Jesus said the harvest is great but the laborers are few. On Labor Day 1967, one of God's few laborers went home after a bountiful harvest...

You may get the book from Amazon by clicking the image below...