by Domenic Amara, PhD
SPECIAL TO EASTBOSTON.COM
A short while ago, Vincent Basile, Col. U. S. Army, Retired, introduced The Pirandello Lyceum and the Italian American Alliance * to the story of Lt. Fr. Vincent Capodanno, an Italian American who posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery, selfless devotion to duty as a U.S Marine and Chaplain, and for his sacrifice in the service of his Country.
Together, they arrived at the idea of petitioning the Postmaster General of the United States to issue a Lt. Fr. Vincent Capodanno Commemorative Stamp. A laudable and simple idea it would seem. At that time, however, we had little idea what it takes to commission a United States Commemorative Stamp. On the surface it would seem axiomatic. Not so. It’s apparent that it’s going to take a concerted effort to achieve that goal. That effort began with the laying of a memorial brick at the 911 Memorial site in Newton, MA, a setting dedicated to American heroes.
Vincent Capodanno was born of an Italian immigrant father and an Italian-American mother. He was the youngest of nine siblings. After high school he joined the Seminary, was ordained a priest in 1957 and later served as a foreign missionary. In the mid 1960’s he volunteered to serve his Country and became a commissioned officer in the Navy. In April 1966 Capodanno was sent to Vietnam to serve with the 1st Marine Division.
He was respected by all those around him earning the nickname the “Grunt Padre” for living eating and sleeping in the same conditions as the Marines with whom he served. Fr. Capodanno requested a six-month extension after his tour was up. On September 4, 1967 the 38-year-old Capodanno learned that a platoon was in danger of being overrun by enemy forces. At the time he was in the company command post, yet he left that safe haven to run through area riddled with gunfire to get to the platoon under attack.
He was eventually hit by an exploding mortar which caused multiple arm and leg wounds and severed part of his right hand. Despite these wounds he refused medical help and instead moved around the battlefield offering encouragement and assisting the wounded. When he noticed a wounded Marine he rushed to help. He was within inches of the Marine when he was hit by machine gun fire 25 times and died at the scene.
His loss was interminable. He went on to posthumously earn the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star. On January 7, 1969 his family received the Medal of Honor on his behalf. There are now over 50 local Italian American organizations, local Veteran groups and numerous individuals who have signed on to the effort to have a Commemorative Stamp created in his honor.
To Italian Americans he brings to mind the best of what Italian and Italian American Culture have contributed to the United States. To Veterans – indeed, to all Americans – he reminds us that being an American is not without its costs. His life speaks to us as to what a special place America is, and he reminds us as to what being an American is all about: God, Family and Country.
We ask you to join our petition to have a Commemorative Stamp made to honor and memorialize a great human being and a great American.
Please click on the link to the electronic petition and indicate your support: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/a-stamp-in-honor-of-lt-fr-vincent-capodanno
The petition will be presented to the Postmaster General.
Please direct the attention of your family and friends to this website. We believe the more we share this story the greater will be our chance of success.
For more information you may contact:
*The Pirandello Lyceum is a Boston Based Italian American Cultural Association; The Italian American Alliance is a multi-state Italian American organization that advocates for the maintenance and sharing of Italian and Italian American heritage in the United States. Since the Lt. Fr. Vincent Capodanno Commemorative Stamp Initiative was launched over 50 local and national organizations and Veterans groups, as well as hundreds of individuals, have joined in support of the effort.