Every Medal of Honor story is unique.
In an uncomfortable war zone thousands of miles from home, chaplains are often the only sense of peace and calm for service members. Navy Chaplain Vincent R. Capodanno was amongst the best, earning the title of the “grunt padre” from the Marines he served. His efforts to support them would take him to foxholes in distant outposts, rainy nights in the jungle and into the chaos of battle.
On September 4, 1967, while providing comfort and aid to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, an already wounded Father Capodanno rushed forward to comfort a wounded corpsman. While administering last rites, he was shot more than 27 times. This act of heroism would earn him the Medal of Honor.
His service to his country was as great as his service to the Roman Catholic Church – and for that he is currently being beatified. That process, known as canonization, is when the church endeavors to prove that a person lived and died in such an exemplary way that they deserve to be recognized as a saint.
Capodanno is one of 160 Medal of Honor recipients who died in the Vietnam War and are listed on The Wall. Of those, 159 were awarded for acts in the Vietnam War. Major General Keith Ware, who died during the Vietnam War, earned his Medal of Honor for actions during World War II.
The Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded by the President of the United States, in the name of the Congress, to members of the U.S. armed forces who have distinguished themselves by going above and beyond the call of duty, risking their lives while exhibiting intrepidity and valor.
There are three similar, yet distinct, versions of the Medal of Honor, one for each military department. The medals are similar in that each consists of a variation of a five-pointed star worn around the neck on a light blue ribbon.
Only slightly more than 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded to members of all services. Of the millions of U.S. service members who served during the Vietnam War, only 263 were awarded the Medal of Honor, including those who survived and those who died.
On November 18, 1967, Private First Class Sammy Davis, wounded and under intense enemy fire, crossed a river to rescue three wounded soldiers near Cai Lay, Vietnam. On November 19, 1968, Davis received the Medal of Honor. The footage from that day as well as Davis’s citation were used as source materials for the film Forrest Gump.
Second Lieutenant Walter “Joe” Marm, Jr., led an attack against a heavily fortified enemy force on November 14, 1965, personally knocking out several positions in the Ia Drang Valley, South Vietnam. He was presented with the Medal of Honor on December 19, 1966, and three years later volunteered for a second tour of duty in Vietnam.
Major Bruce Crandall made over 20 flights into intense enemy fire during a battle in the Ia Drang Valley, South Vietnam, in November 1965, evacuating 70 wounded and delivering ammunition. The battle was later dramatized in the film We Were Soldiers. On February 26, 2007, Crandall received the Medal of Honor.
On November 14, 1965, Captain Ed Freeman made repeated flights into the Ia Drang Valley under intense fire to bring in supplies and evacuate the wounded. Due to a statute of limitations being lifted, Freeman was awarded the Medal of Honor on July 16, 2001.