Chaplains don’t usually come to mind when the words “combat soldier” are mentioned.
Yet 16 American chaplains lost their lives in the line of duty during the Vietnam War. Two of them, both Catholic priests, Navy Lt. Vincent Robert Capodanno and Army Maj. Charles Joseph Watters, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their heroism and valor on the battlefield.
Father Capodanno, a man many Marines have called a saint, is now in fact a candidate for canonization. Capodanno was known to the troops as the “Grunt Padre.”
Marine veteran Ray Harton remembers meeting him in a base mess tent: “He was just like one of the Marines… . His voice was what set him off from the rest, soft-spoken yet gruff enough to get your attention. He prayed with us and let us know he was there.”
Retired Marine Col. Gerald H. Turley described Capodanno as “a humble person, obviously at peace with himself in a place where war was going on.”