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Roberts, Moran introduce bill to honor Kapaun

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, at 12:05 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 30, 2012, at 4:49 p.m.

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Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran introduced a bill Tuesday to award Father Emil Kapaun, a Kansas war hero, the Medal of Honor for acts of valor in the Korean War.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives, joined by Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, and Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler.

"Father Kapaun was by all accounts an American hero," Roberts said in a statement.

"His selfless actions are certainly deserving of the Medal of Honor."

Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in Korea. In 2009, former Congressman Todd Tiahrt called for a review of Kapaun's record.

Then-Secretary of the Army Peter Geren confirmed that Kapaun's actions in combat operations and as a prisoner of war in Korea warranted award of the Medal of Honor. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concurred.

Tiahrt had introduced legislation last year similar to what the Kansas members of Congress introduced Tuesday, but Kapaun's name was dropped from that legislation late last year, prompting Roberts and the other members to reintroduce it.

The bill authorizes and requests the posthumous Medal of Honor. 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. It must then be approved by both chambers and signed into law.

Kapaun's numerous heroic actions as a U.S. Army chaplain, described for the past 60 years by surviving fellow soldiers, took place in North Korea in 1950 and 1951. He was born on a farm outside Pilsen, and served there as a Catholic priest before he volunteered for the Army, both in World War II and the Korean War.

Fellow soldiers say that on battlefields and in prison camps he saved hundreds of lives because he was both resourceful and inspiring.

"Father Kapaun is a hero, both to Kansans and to people of faith all over the world,'' Pompeo said in a statement.

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com.

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