WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Pat Roberts, Sen. Jerry Moran, along with Representatives Lynn Jenkins, Tim Huelskamp, Kevin Yoder and Mike Pompeo have sent the following letter today to Department of Defense Secretary and fellow Kansan Robert Gates, urging him to award the Medal of Honor to Chaplain Emil Kapaun, a Kansas war hero.
“Father Kapaun’s story is inspiring and a lesson to all of us of what it means to be a true hero,” said Roberts. “He inspired so many with his unfailing faith and acts of generosity and is well-deserving of the Medal of Honor.”
“Father Kapaun’s heroic actions in the Korean battlefields saved countless lives when he ran under enemy fire to rescue wounded soldiers,” Moran said. “In the bitter cold of winter, Father Kaupan carried injured comrades on his back during forced marches through the snow, gave away his meager food rations and cared for the sick who were suffering alongside him in the prison camp. This compassionate, selfless man distinguished himself by going above and beyond the call of duty, and he is more than deserving of this distinguished award.”
“Father Kapaun is both a war and spiritual hero to many around the world and here in Kansas,” said Pompeo. “While the Pompeo amendment was included in the House-passed Defense Authorization bill to allow Father Kapaun to receive the Medal of Honor, it is important for Secretary Gates to clarify his position on the matter. I hope the Secretary will act quickly and give Father Kapaun the long-overdue recognition he greatly deserves.”
“Father Kapaun is not only a Kansas hero, but an American hero whose life deserves this recognition, remembrance, and imitation,” Huelskamp said.
“Father Kapaun is an American hero who bravely sacrificed his life in the service of his fellow soldiers and his faith,” Jenkins said. “His story and his example make me proud to be both a Kansan and an American, and I truly hope he is awarded this well deserved honor.”
“Father Kapaun’s selfless and brave service in the Korean War embodies the finest traditions of the U.S. Armed Services,” said Yoder. “It is my hope that this hero citizen soldier be recognized with the honor he deserves.”
"Father Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas 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.
Earlier this year, the Kansas delegation offered legislation in both the House and the Senate to waive the statutory time limitation for Father Kapaun to receive the Medal of Honor. Since then, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which includes the time waiver provision allowing the Medal of Honor to be awarded to him.
The delegation sent the letter to outgoing Secretary Gates before his departure, seeking clear support for legislation awarding Father Kapaun the Medal of Honor.
The full text of the letter follows:
"Thank you for the March 3, 2011 letter from Dr. Clifford L. Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, regarding the Medal of Honor nomination for Chaplain (Captain) Emil J. Kapaun. While we appreciate your attention to this matter, we request a clarification to the March letter.
"In February, the Kansas congressional delegation wrote to inform you of legislation offered in both the House and Senate to waive the statutory time limitation for the award of the Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun. Since then, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which includes the time waiver provision allowing the award of the Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun.
"Dr. Stanley kindly responded to the delegation letter indicating that the Department supports time waiver legislation, but there has been some confusion in Congress as to whether the Department supports time waiver legislation specifically for Father Kapaun. Therefore, we respectfully request you to convey your support of the time waiver provision for Father Kapaun to the Committees on Armed Services in the Senate and House. This action will ensure final passage of the provision, and then permit you and the President the authority to grant this important honor.
"As a fellow Kansan, we hope you agree that Father Kapaun deserves this long overdue recognition and therefore look forward to your timely response. We appreciate your willingness to work together to honor the actions of our hometown hero. Finally, as you move forward to the next chapter in your career, we want to express our sincere appreciation for your strong leadership of our armed forces and dedicated service to our great nation. You will be sorely missed in Washington."