Heroes for God and All His Children
America’s first Army chaplains supported soldiers during the American Revolution. They provided religious and pastoral care for the living and the dead, administered rites, and sometimes carried arms to join their congregations into battle. Chaplains have been by the sides of US soldiers and sailors ever since, in peace and in war.
For individuals serving in the US military, the Medal of Honor is the highest award that can be bestowed for valor against hostile forces. Generally, the US president presents the award to recipients in the name of the US Congress.
Since World War II, five military chaplains, all Catholic priests, have received the Medal of Honor. Two of them are on the path to sainthood. Two have had US Navy vessels named in their honor. One served as a chaplain in World War II, one in Korea and two in Vietnam. Another returned his Medal of Honor.
Chaplains assist military personnel and their families through their religious and pastoral care. Their example of valor and dedication on the battlefield inspires a new generation of men to be chaplains and continue the legacy they have established. People around the world have been touched by the bravery, commitment, and compassion of these priests.
Individual profiles have been written about a few of these Medal of Honor recipients, but this article is a collective narrative on all Catholic chaplains who received the medal since World War II. Reviewing their work and heroic response to battlefield dangers as chaplains offers insight into their character and commitment to the Catholic priesthood and the US military.