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Yet 16 American chaplains lost their lives in the line of duty during the Vietnam War.
Two of them, both Catholic priests, Navy Lt. Vincent Robert Capodanno and Army Maj. Charles Joseph Watters, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their heroism and valor on the battlefield.
Vincent Capodanno was born in Staten Island, N.Y., on February 13, 1929. He studied for the priesthood at Maryknoll Missionary Seminary in New York and was ordained in June 1957. In December 1965 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Navy Chaplain Corps and was assigned to the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam in April 1966. He immediately fell in love with his Marines.
Father Capodanno, a man many Marines have called a saint, is now in fact a candidate for canonization. Capodanno was known to the troops as the “Grunt Padre.”
Maj. Charles Watters had known he wanted to be a Catholic priest since he was in the fourth grade. Born on January 17, 1927, in Jersey City, New Jersey, he graduated from Seton Hall University. He was ordained in 1953.
A qualified private pilot, he became a chaplain in the New Jersey Air National Guard in 1962. Watters joined the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps two years later, and at 38 he volunteered for airborne training.
Chaplains Capodanno and Watters were not only men of God; they were also among the greatest of America’s soldiers, displaying uncommon courage and selfless compassion for their comrades in the midst of deadly combat.
Both priests lived and died for the grunts they loved.