The Grunt Padre:
The Service and Sacrifice of Fr. Vincent Robert Capodanno, Vietnam 1967 to 1968
By Fr. Daniel Lawrence Mode
Published by CMJ Marian Publishers
On September 4, 1967, a North Vietnamese soldier opened fire on an unarmed chaplain who was ministering to a seriously wounded corpsman trapped in enemy fire during Operation Swift. Fr. Vincent Robert Capodanno, the Marinesí beloved Grunt Padre, had fallen. This distressing news crackled like lightning across the network of radio communication lines vigilantly following the fierce combat. Marines recall a pall of stunned grief settling among them as they realized they had lost the soft-spoken priest who had comforted and guided them all -- Christian and non-Christian alike Ė through the darkest hours of their combat experiences.
As one officer quoted in the book remarks, after receiving three purple hearts a soldier is usually sent home. On the day of his death, Fr. Vincent received three wounds that would have qualified for three purple hearts, and he did, indeed, go home. Rear Admiral James W. Kelly, Chief of Chaplains for the Navy, described well the bond between chaplain and his Marines during a speech he gave on February 6, 1968 at a ceremony dedicating a small chapel at the Newport Naval Base to the fallen chaplain:
Chaplain Capodanno packed into his brief career Ö the ultimate in service to God, to country and to fellow man Ö. Where his Marines went, he went. He shared with them their rations; he lived with them in the mud of the monsoon season; the heat of every season. With them, he hastened to the field of battle. With them he went into the valley of death. Solicitous of the needs of others, forgetting himself in that service, he gave all of himself there was to give Ė his life.
Thanks to the authorís patient work, many voices such as this one rise together to recount memorable images, acts of tenderness, and simple words of guidance, light and compassion. What is created is a detailed portrait of the Grunt Padre as well as his Marines. This biography delivers a lasting and important witness to the body of literature which must stand as accurate history for generations to come.
Son and brother of Marines, the author, Fr. Daniel Lawrence Mode, is a Navy chaplain himself. Perhaps that is the source of his own remarkable sympathy with the subject of his book. While drawing the readerís attention to the full life story which culminated in Fr. Vincentís selfless service and ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam, the author casts an unwavering light upon the ordinary lives and the faithful service and sacrifice of all Marines and other military personnel who served in Vietnam. In this way, the love and heroism inside the horror of the Vietnam War finds itself in a rare spotlight.
Many struggles, contradictions and seemingly odd twists of fate mark the journey which led this chaplain to his lifeís work among Marines. Through every stage of Fr. Vincentís life, the author points to a transformation unfolding in a sometimes tumultuous dynamic of interior searching and faith which, in this case, led one humble man to one great act with many profound ramifications. The effect is to hearten readers, in a way we suspect Fr. Vincent might have sought to do had he lived, and to encourage them to embrace the mysteries and burdens in their own lives, ever continuing to seek their own lifeís purpose and fulfillment.
In fact, this book leaves the impression that Fr. Vincentís ministry is continuing to serve his beloved grunt Marines. As the one man can reflect the image of all whom he has served, the reader encounters in The Grunt Padre a compelling testimony that, just as death has not curtailed Fr. Vincentís tireless love for his grunt Marines, no death of any Marine in Vietnam was in vain but, rather, continues to serve the country in whose name it was so selflessly sacrificed.
Published by CJM Marian Publishers, all royalties from sales of The Grunt Padre: The Service and Sacrifice of Fr. Vincent Robert Capodanno, Vietnam 1966 to 1967 are used to support the Father Vincent Robert Capodanno Foundation, a non-profit organization which the author established to honor of the memory of this chaplain and to continue his ministry of outreach to his beloved grunt Marines. For more information about the book or the Foundation, visit the Foundation Website at XXX.