Fort Riley honors Father Kapaun

Marion County’s Emil J. Kapaun was honored Feb. 20 at the newly renamed Kapaun Chapel at Fort Riley near Junction City, where several dignitaries gathered.

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, Catholic archbishop of military services, was on hand during the ceremony to dedicate a mural and portrait depicting Kapaun’s military career.

“It was a mural to show that Kansas is proud of one of its own-someone who represented the military very well,” said Deb Skidmore, public relations officer at Fort Riley.

Born in Pilsen on April 20, 1916, Kapaun served his country as a military chaplain until his death May 23, 1951, at the age of 34.

Throughout the years following his death, his heroism inspired many to campaign for his elevation to sainthood.

In November, the Custer Hill Chapel-located in the upper troop area of the complex at Fort Riley-was renamed Kapaun Chapel.

“Because Father Kapaun was such a model for our soldiers-of how someone ought to live as a soldier and a chaplain-we wanted to select a chapel that was actually in the troop area,” said Father Kenehan, 24th Division mechanized chaplain at Fort Riley.

Kapaun entered the U.S. Army Chaplain Corp in 1944 and “separated from the service in 1946,” Kenehan said. In 1948, Kapaun re-entered the army and was sent to Korea in 1950 where he was captured and taken prisoner of war. During his seven months in prison, he served his fellow prisoners without regard to race, color or creed, Kenehan said.

He was moved to a hospital but denied medication and died among the comrades he served.

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