Last week, Roberts, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Pompeo introduced legislation in both the Senate and the House to authorize and request the posthumous Medal of Honor for Father Kapaun. It must then be approved by both chambers and signed into law. The Department of Defense must concur with the Senior Army Decorations Board’s determination and convey approval to the Committees on Armed Services in the Senate and the House.
The following is the text of the letter sent today to Secretary Gates:
“We write to bring your attention to a proposal to award Chaplain (CPT) Emil J. Kapaun the Medal of Honor. We fully support this effort and request your official consent to move this award forward.
“We recently offered legislation in both the House and Senate to waive the statutory time limitation for the award of the Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun. In order to move forward on the legislative measures, we need you to convey your support and concurrence with the Senior Army Decorations Board's determination to the Committees on Armed Services in the Senate and the House.
“The campaign to recognize Father Kapaun's heroic contributions began several years ago. In response to a request by former Congressman Todd Tiahrt in 2009 to review Father Kapaun's record, the former Secretary of the Army Peter Geren confirmed that his actions in combat operations and as a prisoner of war in Korea warrant award of the Medal of Honor. Please find the response enclosed.
“As a fellow Kansan, you may already be familiar with the story of Father Kapaun, who was born in Pilsen, Kansas, 1916. During the Korean War, Father Kapaun served as a chaplain of the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the First Army Division. Amidst the devastating Battle of Unsan, Kapaun stayed on the battlefield, dragging wounded soldiers to safety and attending to their injuries. He was taken prisoner along with other American soldiers and served his comrades by escaping to steal food from nearby farms to bring back to starving prisoners. He cared for sick soldiers, washed them, shared his food with them, and inspired them with his unfailing faith and acts of generosity until his death in May 1951. Fellow soldiers who benefitted or witnessed the many examples of Father Kapaun's service shared the stories of his heroism after their release. One soldier's description of Father Kapaun's courage is most fitting: ‘Father Kapaun's courage had the softness of velvet and the strength of iron.’
“Father Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in the Battle of Unsan. It is appropriate to further recognize his courage, strength, and service to his fellow prisoners by awarding him the Medal of Honor. Congress stands ready to take action and award this honor to Father Kapaun but awaits consent and advice from your department. We appreciate your time and attention to this important matter.”