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Kan. veteran reflects on life of Fr. Kapaun

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 7:25 PM CDT
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WINFIELD, Kan. (KWCH) - For some who served in the military, Fr. Emil Kapaun is a symbol of hope. For U.S. Navy veteran John Cain, he’s also a symbol of heroism.

“He gave them hope and he kept their hope up that they would get out of it,” Cain said of Kapaun’s leadership in a Korean prisoner-of-war camp where the eventual candidate for sainthood died. “Doing that undoubtedly probably saved a lot of lives.”

In 2013, Kapaun, an Army chaplain, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Korea.

Cain leads the VFW post in Winfield He also joined the church group, “Kapaun’s Men” to study the life and ministry of Fr. Kapaun.

“I learned that he’s a great man. He was probably one of the most caring people for his fellow man that I ever heard or read about,” Cain said.

Fr. Kapaun died as a prisoner of war in May of 1951. It took 70 years before his remains were identified.

“He wasn’t buried in a mass grave, he was buried alone,” Cain said. “One of the most fascinating things about it -- which I call it a miracle -- when they recovered his remains, was that they recovered 95 percent of his remains, intact. And that is just fascinating.”

Since 1995, the website, KoreanWar.org has been connecting thousands of veterans. Some in the group have been following Fr. Kapaun’s story.

“There’s still 155 missing in the state of Kansas alone,” said KoreanWar.org administrator Ted Barker of those who served in the Korean War.

He said Fr. Kapaun’s story gives solace to families of other soldiers who died in POW camps during the Korean War and hope for families of those whose remains haven’t been found. Before he died, Fr. Kapaun also gave hope to the men who were POWs with him.

“For the men who survived, he touched their lives and gave them resolve to survive two more horrible years as POWs,” Barker said.

KoreanWar.org includes a database of Korean War KIA-MIA POWs.

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