Sacrifices for Dignity & Freedom

Servant of God Emil Kapaun celebrates Mass on the battlefield (Original photo in the Public Domain)

When I attend events where the National Anthem is sung and eyes are focused on the American Flag, tears well up in my eyes because I think of all who made this Nation as it is -“a land of the free”. When I hear Taps played at military funerals, I feel honored to be a part of that recognition of those who have served our country. The sacrifices, duty and dedication of many men and women come to mind. And yes, I do pause and thank God for their lives and their service which helped build the foundation of freedom. So many have become role models for young Americans to join the military.

A person to learn about and remember is a Catholic chaplain, Father Emil Kapaun, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II & the Korean War. He was born in Pilsen, Kansas on April 20, 1916, and died as a prisoner of war on Mary 23, 1951 at the age of 35. The Catholic Church has begun the cause for his canonization. Servant of God Emil Kapaun was a faithful priest, parish pastor, and military chaplain with a zealous and fervent desire to help others encounter Christ and His peace.

During the Korean war, he would offer Mass from the top of his jeep, travel miles to have Mass for troops in the field, would carry wounded men to safety, and brought hope to his fellow prisoners. He was called the Shepherd In Combat Boots.

He and other American soldiers were captured and forced to march a 60 to 100 mile walk to a prison camp. He helped carry one soldier with a broken ankle, and would encourage others to help those in need of support. Otherwise, they would be left to die or be shot. In prison, he would turn the mud huts they were forced to live in into a cathedral. He underwent torture for visiting prisoners to pray with them. He died of starvation and pneumonia after seven months in prison.

As the enemy took him to an area to die; the men cried out and begged that their priest not be taken away. As he was led away, Father Emil was heard saying: I’m going where I always wanted to go, and when I get there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you. Don’t worry about me. He was last seen blessing his captors.

Father Kapaun was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. The President of the United States posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor on April 11, 2013. This medal is the highest award given to a member of the military, and Kapaun is just one of five Chaplains to have received the award.

We have been given the gift of freedom as an American people.

The ultimate freedom we have is the freedom that Jesus has given us with the sacrifice of his life and through his promises as we discover them in the Scriptures. Jesus said: If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). Free to live a life with God, to walk with him daily and experience his peace, and to live in hope of eternal life.

Our sacrifice of putting another person first, in the virtue of charity, can lead us to realize our dignity as a child of God, as a person living in true freedom.


Mary Jane Fox, D.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with her husband, Deacon Tom Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Mary Jane is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Dame of the Holy Sepulchre.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.