The Grunt Padre: Father Vincent Robert Capodanno Vietnam 1966-1967 – Rev. Daniel L. Mode
This is the fourth book I have read about military chaplains in the last year. This one was a recommendation after someone posted an icon of Father Capodanno and Father Kapaun. This book was an addictive read. I could hardly put it down, and gave up taking my lunch break two days in a row to keep reading. This book was originally published as a masters thesis in 1992. The edition I read was published in 2008 and is considered the 3rd edition. The book was expanded in 2001, and the 2008 edition was expanded again with more information and background on the Military Diocese. The author himself a military chaplain has researched extensively to prepare this book for us. And from what I can tell it is currently the only book about this man of God and his service. It is an inspiring story.
Prior to this book being recommended I did not know anything about Father Capodanno. But he has been described many ways, he was a navy chaplain, he was a member of the Maryknoll Fathers, he was a distinguished soldier who received the Congressional medal of honor, Bronze star and 3 purple hearts. And there are memorials and buildings around the world named after him. But after reading this story I think he is best described as a Catholic hero. He had a servants heart.
Vincent Capodanno volunteered when he saw the looming conflict in Vietnam. He left his role as a missionary and enrolled in the military. He was a grunt, he carried the same pack as the other marines. He lived their life, and he served them in body and spirit. The cause for the canonization of Fr Capodanno is underway. In 2006 he was named a Servant of God.
But this book is more than the telling of his military service. It is the story of his life, his struggles, his frustrations and his obedience to his calling, to his superiors and to God. The author states in the preface to this book:
“While I was studying at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and casting about for an M.A. research paper, Father Vincent emerged as a likely subject. Initially, I was going to opt for a fifty-page paper in which I would review the most publicly known events of his life. But the more I discovered about this remarkable man, the more I realized that such a modest paper would not do justice to him and to the ideals for which he stood. I wanted to determine the “whys” behind his actions, including the motivation for his joining the Chaplain Corps and his going to Vietnam with the U.S. Marines. I wanted to do as thorough a study as possible of this dedicated and brave priest. Consequently, I wrote a lengthy thesis rather than a brief paper.”
And he did that with all of the resources available. Beginning with the few published articles about Father Vincent, his military and church records, and interactions with over 50 people who knew Father Vincent personally. So after compiling all of that material this book grew out of the research. Therefore the sections in this book are:
An Italian-American Family
The Field Afar
St. Martin’s Cloak
The 7th Marines
Priest Of God – Servant Of Men
A Bibliographic Essay
This book unlike those about Father Kapaun is not about being a pow, being tortured, being abused. It is about serving, serving in the front lines and making the ultimate sacrifice. The Vietnam War is for many still a hard topic, especially among my American friends. What this book does is bring a different light on the subject. It highlights one man who had an influence upon many. It was an inspiring read. And I can highly recommend it.
Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!