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Moving moments as Helen Kapaun watches Medal of Honor ceremony from Wichita

  • Published Thursday, April 11, 2013, at 4:33 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, April 11, 2013, at 11:32 p.m.

Helen Kapaun sat mostly stone-faced, her demeanor unchanging and her eyes fixed on a television screen displaying an empty podium and the backs of people’s heads.

“There’s Angie, Raymond, David and Ken,” she said.

All were Kapaun family members who went to Washington, D.C., for Thursday’s Medal of Honor ceremony for Helen’s brother-in-law, Father Emil Kapaun.

Helen listened closely, watching the live feed from the White House in a conference room at The Eagle.

“I’m sure Dad’s watching it in heaven,” Carolyn Kapaun, Helen’s daughter, said, referring to Eugene Kapaun, Helen’s deceased husband and Emil’s younger brother.

“I’m sure,” Helen said. “He and Father are up there together, sharing it with him.”

Her eyes teared and her faced flushed when President Obama handed the Medal of Honor to her son, Ray Kapaun.

“I wonder how Ray feels?” Helen asked.

“He’s tense,” said Mary Kapaun, another of Helen’s daughters.

“He can hardly breathe,” Carolyn offered.

“If I would be up there, oh good grief …” Helen said.

Breathe,” she commanded her son on the screen.

As a woman’s voice read the Medal of Honor citation on the live feed from the White House, Helen looked a little more relaxed.

“OK, he’s feeling a little better now,” Helen said of Ray, who was standing next to Obama, holding the Medal of Honor. “It’s so good to see him like that … my kid. He looks a little better.”

As the applause rose in the background at the ceremony’s conclusion, Helen thought about what it would have been like had she been at the White House at that moment.

“First of all, I feel like I could not have made it through all of that,” she said. “It was the children who had to be there.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

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