Ever since I can remember, I have had a great love of country. Although I never had any personal connection to the military, I was always so grateful for our American soldiers who helped liberate the Nazi death camps during World War II. Those images of selfless service stuck with me, and I had a burning desire to serve our country in some way. I had dreams of possibly serving in the Peace Corps, but had never been out of the country. My dreams of service seemed scary and way bigger than me. Although the desire was there, the fear was greater- I just wasn’t ready to leave everything behind to be shipped someplace straight across the world.
In law school, I looked into JAG. Even spoke with someone from the program. But again that fear crept in about being deployed somewhere away from my family halfway across the world and being unable to control my own life. I decided instead to serve foster kids here at home, the deep-end kids, the ones that nobody wanted to help. But the desire to serve my country still beckoned deep within me, and silently I wondered if it would ever come to fruition.
I had forgotten all about that desire until I read an article in the Word Among Us about Father Richard Capodanno, a priest from Staten Island, New York who later went on to serve as a Marine corps chaplain in Vietnam. He extended his tour of duty to stay with his men and died on the battlefields there. He is now a servant of God on his way (God willing) to becoming a saint.
His story moved me because he, like me, was just an ordinary person. But unlike me, he was not afraid and followed God’s call- first in the mission fields in Taiwan and later as a Marine Corps chaplain in the Vietnam War. He didn’t have to go, but chose to, in obedience to something that was just so much bigger than him.
In an era when the American military is taking heat from all sides and people choose to protest rather to honor those who WILLINGLY serve our country, Father Capodanno’s life was a light for me in the midst of the darkness. He left everything he knew to be part of a war that Americans were protesting. He chose God above all else, even his family.
At a time when the world seems to be caving in, selfish attitudes prevail, there is animosity and hatred in the streets, I think of those people who are far beyond all that, who are tasked with the duty of keeping our country safe. To disrespect the flag and all that it stands for is to desecrate Father Capodanno’s grave.
I hope you will take the time to learn more about him. As the hurricane is fast approaching us here in South Florida, I am reminded of Father Capodanno’s bravery amidst a war, and I am calm.
Father Capodanno, Servant of God, pray for all of us that are in the path of Hurricane Irma. Send prayers to Jesus to calm the storm, and we ask for your prayers to help calm us.
In Christ’s name we pray,