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‘Grunt Padre’ memorialized at Pentagon
A portrait of Fr. Vincent Capodanno is unveiled.
Mike Flach | Catholic Herald
Michael F. Flach | Catholic Herald
Retired Navy Capt. Ted Bronson presents a copy of the book The Grunt Padre to Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben, chaplain of the Marine Corps. The book was written by Fr. Daniel Mode, a priest of the Arlington Diocese.

It started with a simple conversation in mid-July during a pilgrimage to Rome.

Retired Navy Capt. Ted Bronson told Chip and Sharon Lofton of Roxboro, N.C., the inspiring story of Maryknoll Father Vincent Capodanno.

The Loftons instantly felt inspired to do something to memorialize the U.S. Navy chaplain from Staten Island, N.Y., who died a martyr on a battlefield in Vietnam. They commissioned their friend, artist George Bucannan, to create a portrait based on a holy card sent to them by Bronson.

Bucannan’s portrait was unveiled Aug. 30 at a Pentagon ceremony that included Gen. John M. Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben, chaplain of the Marine Corps; and Maj. Gen. Mike Regner, staff director at Marine Corps headquarters.

The lower scene of Bucannan’s painting depicts Father Capodanno on the Que Son Valley battlefield, about 35 miles from Danang. He is giving the last rites and medical attention to the wounded and dying “grunts” in their time of pain, sorrow and dying.

In his brief remarks at the Pentagon ceremony, Bronson said that Father Capodanno was first wounded in the shoulder and later his hand before being killed by direct fire shortly after telling a wounded soldier, “Stay calm Marine, someone will be with you shortly. God is with us this day.”

Bronson said that Father Capodanno was killed on the opening day of “Operation Swift,” which was the worst casualty day for Marines during the Vietnam War.

“Father Capodanno was a true ‘Grunt Padre,’” said Bronson. “He died always faithful to his God, his country and his Marines.”

In addition to the new portrait, the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services honored Father Capodanno at a Sept. 4 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The Mass was celebrated on the 46th anniversary of Father Capodanno’s death.

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