POW/MIA week honors local namesake

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Regan Spinner
  • 86th Airlift Wing

Military personnel honored prisoners of war and those missing in action during several POW/MIA events held Sept. 12 - 16, 2022 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

A tribute to Father Emil Kapaun was dedicated in honor of his sacrifice as a prisoner of war missing in action during the Father Emil Kapaun Traffic Circle Dedication ceremony at Kapaun Air Station, Germany, Sept. 12.

“May all those who drive by [this traffic circle] daily be visibly reminded of the sacrifices of Father Kapaun and the numerous unknown fallen heroes,” said Maj. Mario Catungal, 86th Airlift Wing chaplain. “Their deaths were not in vain and they will never be forgotten.”

The monument placed in the traffic circle was made possible through Commander-in-Chief’s Award for installation Excellence funds, which were awarded to Team Ramstein as the 2022 winner of the award.

The Father Emil Kapaun Traffic Circle Monument can be found on Kapaun Air Station, Germany at the traffic circle nearest to the commissary and shoppette.

Kapaun was a Roman Catholic priest and former U.S. Army chaplain who was commissioned into the U.S. Army chaplain corps in 1944, and served through WWII and the Korean War when he was captured as a POW.

“Shortly after his capture, Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety and unwavering resolve, bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sgt. 1st Class Herbert A. Miller,” said Bruce Bartholomew, a member of the Knights of Columbus, who also spoke at the ceremony.

Kapaun carried Miller 100 miles to the prison camp where the chaplain was eventually killed by a Chinese communist at a POW camp in 1951, but not before doing everything within his power to help the people around him. Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2013 for extraordinary heroism and selfless service.

“May his servant leadership continue to be a model that guides the armed forces and their code of conduct in captivity,” Catungal said.

POW/MIA events were held throughout the week, including a homage to Father Kapaun’s sacrifice - the log carry.

The 24-hour POW/MIA log carry, ruck and run held Sept. 15 and 16, included service members working as a team to carry logs or rucks. Each pound of weight and lap around the track represented the recovery of a missing service member.

The closing ceremony, held Sept. 16, closed out the week. Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Kenneth Cordier, former 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron pilot, was the keynote speaker. He spoke on his first-hand experience as a prisoner of war.

“The day of our release came and we were given clothes and even shoes,” said Cordier. “We were marched out to the bus at the entrance to the prison and drove to the Hanoi airport. Our names were called out one-by-one in the order we were captured and we stepped forward and saluted the Brigadier General and went to the aircraft that was taking us home.”

Ramstein holds annual POW/MIA ceremonies to honor the sacrifices made by generations who came before.