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Archive for Friday, December 16, 2011

Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo says priest closer to medal

December 16, 2011

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— A Roman Catholic priest who died in a prison camp while serving as an Army chaplain during the Korean War could soon receive the Medal of Honor, according to U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo.

The Kansas congressman has been working to change language in a federal defense bill that would allow the late Rev. Emil Kapaun, who was from Pilsen, to receive the medal for his heroism during the war. Kapaun died in a North Korean prison camp in May 1951, the Wichita Eagle reported Friday.

Fellow war veterans have said Kapaun saved hundreds of soldiers' lives and inspired them to resist Communist guards who tried to coerce them to betray their country.

The Defense Authorization bill approved by Congress this week included language waiving a requirement that a Medal of Honor recipient must have performed the heroic acts in the past two years. Pompeo helped change the wording in the bill that would clear the way for Kapaun to be considered for the medal.

If President Barack Obama signs the bill, the Defense Department could consider the medal application. The president ultimately decides which service members are awarded the honor.

"I think the president will sign the bill, and I think we're closer than we've ever been," Pompeo, R-Wichita, said Thursday.

Pompeo said Kapaun's chances for the medal should have been approved long ago.

"But we'll continue to bird-dog it until it is done, and it sure looks more likely now that this is going to get done," Pompeo said.

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