WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts attended the ceremony at the White House on Thursday to award the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for bravery, to Father Emil Kapaun, a Kansas priest who served in the Korean war and who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Following the ceremony, Roberts issued this statement:
“On a perfect spring day in our nation’s capital, it was an honor and a privilege to gather with the fellow soldiers and family of Father Emil Kapaun to recognize his sacrifice and service to our nation, to his faith, and to those that served with him and were witness to his acts of grace, civility and courage under the most difficult of circumstances. I am thankful for the veterans that fought for this recognition after all of these years. Father Kapaun’s bravery and inspiration lives on in the hearts and minds of Kansans, and now will forever have a place of honor in the history of our nation. May God bless Father Kapaun.”
Father Kapaun was born in the Marion County town Pilsen in 1916 and served as a Catholic priest before volunteering for the Army. During the Korean War, he served as a chaplain of the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the First Army Division. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in the Battle of Unsan, where he was taken prisoner and fellow soldiers say he saved hundreds of lives on the battlefield and in prison camps. He escaped to steal food from nearby farms to bring back to starving prisoners, and cared for the sick and injured. He died as a prisoner in May 1951.
Starting in 2009, Senator Roberts and the Kansas delegation offered legislation in both the House and the Senate to waive the statutory time limitation for Father Kapaun to receive the posthumous Medal of Honor. The legislation became law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
Roberts will also attend today’s Medal of Honor ceremonies for Father Kapaun at the Pentagon.