(Official Examiner editorial, May 25) One somber way to think of Memorial Day is to count the number of those who have died in service of this great, good country. Official totals say that figure is at least 1,354,664. The number causes a lump in the throat and a very large twinge in the heart.

Still, numbers are rather antiseptic. They hide the individuals, cannot account for the pain and suffering, and pay no homage in themselves to the causes for which those individuals died. The numbers are sobering but not inspirational.

Each one of those individuals had a story. Each one had family, friends, and colleagues. All of them wore their nation’s uniforms, experienced fear, and suffered hardships. Death in service, even in abject fear, always carries some sense of the heroic. The heroism of some is legendary.

Consider Emil Kapaun, a Catholic priest who served as a front-line pastor in Korea. He refused to wait for the wounded to be brought from the lines back to him; instead, he frequently braved enemy fire to reach, tend to, and pray for the wounded. Once, he even pushed aside the weapon of a Chinese gunman who was about to finish off a wounded American, looked directly at the gunman, and then picked up the American to carry him back to safety. Captured with his unit, subjected to brutal marches and mistreatment as a prisoner of war, Kapaun cared for the sick and injured, pilfered food and firewood from the Chinese captors to spread among the prisoners, and defied the communists’ orders by holding a public service on Easter Sunday. Many Americans credited their survival to Kapaun, but he himself died in captivity. Some 60 years later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor….

[For the rest of this editorial, please follow this link.]

[Note: The researcher responsible for Fr. Kapaun finally receiving the Medal of Honor is my good friend, Lt. Col. William Latham, Ret., whose full book about Korean POWs is here. It is a terrific, very moving, read.]


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