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WASHINGTON — President Obama today bestowed the Medal of Honor on an Army chaplain from Kansas who dodged gunfire to provide medical and spiritual aid to wounded soldiers before he died in captivity more than 60 years ago during the Korean War.
“I can’t imagine a better example for all of us, whether in uniform or not in uniform, a better example to follow,” Obama said after presenting the nation’s highest military award for valor to a nephew of Capt. Emil Kapaun during a ceremony in the White House East Room.
Obama said the Roman Catholic priest carried an injured American four miles as Chinese captors led them on a death march. Kapaun cleaned the wounds of captured soldiers, convinced them to share scarce food and provided spiritual comfort.
The president said Kapaun showed there is a touch of the divine even in hellish situations.
The chaplain’s nephew, Ray Kapaun, his face flush with emotion, accepted the medal from Obama on his uncle’s behalf.
“I don’t think the enormity of what occurred today will actually hit me until my wife and I are heading home from this experience,” Ray Kapaun, 56, said afterward. “A country boy from a small town in Kansas just received the nation’s highest award for valor. That boy was my uncle.”
Kapaun died May 23, 1951, after six months in a prisoner of war camp.