I was given the opportunity to speak at my kids’ school about Veteran’s Day today, and I thought I’d share it with the Steem community.
Quick background: my children attend a Catholic school, so this speech was focused on some relevant Medal of Honor awardees. These three men showed incredible courage in the face of real danger, and I thought it would be more fun to talk about them than my experiences in the Navy.
I haven’t given a speech in a long time, so it was an interesting project after all the writing I’ve done the past 18 months.
Anyway, you can read it all below.
Good morning, thank you for inviting me to speak to the school today.
Veteran’s Day was originally called Armistice Day. It celebrated the end of the Great War, or World War 1, which happened at 11:11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month. Armistice Day was first celebrated in 1919 to commemorate the cease fire one year prior by the major war powers.
Armistice day was renamed to Veteran’s Day after the Korean War, commemorating American veterans of all wars.
Those who serve in today’s military are veterans of multiple conflicts which have taken place in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world. Some veterans have been in fierce battles on the ground or air, while others serve in ships and submarines at sea. When serving in active duty, we were united by our oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic..”
Many veterans continue to uphold this oath through public service, voting, and praying for their country.
Who can name the highest military medal that is awarded to members of the military for bravery?
The Congressional Medal of Honor
I’d like to take this opportunity today to share with you the names of three Medal of Honor recipients. One, a Navy SEAL, had a special prayer he would say daily. The other two were chaplains: priests who serve alongside the men and women of the military to provide the sacraments and care to the wounded and dying. The Navy SEAL is still in active service for the US Navy, while the both chaplains died in the wars they served in. Both chaplains have been given the title, “Servant of God”, and each are being considered for canonization in the Catholic Church.
What does canonization mean?
It is the process in which the Church discovers if somebody is in Heaven after living a saintly life.
Here are the names of the three men we’ll talk about:
Fr Emil Kapaun, US Army Chaplain
Fr Vincent Capodanno, US Navy Chaplain
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr, US Navy SEAL
Fr Emil Kapaun served in the Korean War, and was taken prisoner by enemy forces. He was known as a fearless soldier who risked his life many times to administer the sacraments to the dying and help transport wounded soldiers off the front lines. On November 1st, 1950, Father Kapaun’s unit was overrun by enemies, and he chose to stay with his men rather than retreat to safety.
Father Kapaun spent 7 months in a prison camp, where he risked his life daily to help his fellow prisoners-bringing them food, encouraging them, administering the sacraments, and resisting their captors. After contracting pneumonia, he was sent to the prison “hospital”,where he died.
Father Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2013. The cause for his canonization is in process, and he is now to be referred to with the title “Servant of God”.
Our second hero today is a Navy SEAL.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr, US Navy SEAL was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2016. Chief Byers displayed conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his life while his team conducted a hostage rescue. At one point in the rescue, he covered the American hostage with his own body to protect him from gunfire, while simultaneously subduing an enemy with his bare hands.
Chief Byers has always worn a patch of one particular saint on his back.
Question: which saint prayer did Pope Francis ask the Church to pray to during the month of October?
Answer: St Michael the Archangel prayer
Each mission, Chief Byers would say a prayer to St Michael for protection, along with wearing a St Michael patch on his back.
Chief Byers still serves in the United States Navy.
Finally, I’d like to talk about Fr Vincent Capodanno.
Father Capodanno was the tenth child of Italian immigrants. Through the example of his parents, Vincent Jr. experienced the dignity of hard work, pride of family, strength of ethnic solidarity and most especially, love of their Catholic faith.
These values sustained the family during the Great Depression and following the sudden loss of his father on young Vincent’s tenth birthday.
The American involvement in World War II impacted Vincent personally with three of his brothers serving in the military and fostered in him a profound patriotism and overt faith. Often before classes at Curtis High School, Vincent attended daily Mass at his home parish, a practice he continued after graduation and during his undergraduate years at Fordham University. While on a spiritual retreat in 1949 he confided to a close friend and fellow student his vocational desire.
Fr Fapodanno was killed in action while serving in Vietnam. I’d like to read his Medal of Honor citation, which outlines his actions and heroism.
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Chaplain of the 3d Battalion, in connection with operations against enemy forces. In response to reports that the 2d Platoon of M Company was in danger of being overrun by a massed enemy assaulting force, Lt. Capodanno left the relative safety of the company command post and ran through an open area raked with fire, directly to the beleaguered platoon. Disregarding the intense enemy small-arms, automatic-weapons, and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded. When an exploding mortar round inflicted painful multiple wounds to his arms and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand, he steadfastly refused all medical aid. Instead, he directed the corpsmen to help their wounded comrades and, with calm vigor, continued to move about the battlefield as he provided encouragement by voice and example to the valiant marines. Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately 15 yards away, Lt. Capodanno rushed a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman. At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gun fire. By his heroic conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.”
While this citation mentions Fr Capodanno giving his life in the “cause of freedom”, and that is partially true, more important to him (and Father Kapaun) were these words of Our Lord:
“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
In closing, I’d like to invite everyone to pray for our veterans.
St Michael the Archangel, Pray for us
Fr Emil Kapaun, Servant of God, Pray for us
Fr Vincent Capodanno, Servant of God, Pray for us.