The Epitome of Spiritual Leadership
No one would ever pick this chaplain out of a line up of great leaders.
He was a lanky six-foot tall priest with a sallow complexion. He was not a
natural athlete, and he spoke with a speech impediment. Yet, what he lacked
in physical gifts, he more than made up for in character.
On Nov. 19, 1967, this chaplain began the day by celebrating the Mass
with paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade near Dak To, Republic of
Vietnam. Shortly thereafter, he and the paratroopers began the ascent of Hill
Approximately 50 meters into their ascent, one of the most ferocious
battles of the war began. The chaplain and the men of the 2-503rd infantry
were surrounded by a force of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) that was
roughly ten times their size. All around them, trees began to fall as they were
cut in half by the overwhelming volume of fire. Men were either firing their
weapons, digging into the earth for survival, or dying.
Throughout the battle, the chaplain continually exposed himself to
enemy fire while running unarmed into the fray to pull fellow paratroopers to
safety and administer physical and spiritual aid. When one paratrooper stood
frozen in shock in the midst of the turmoil, the chaplain ran forward with
complete disregard for his own life, threw the man on his shoulders, and
carried him to safety. Even when a perimeter was established, this chaplain
consistently ventured outside of it to retrieve the wounded. Once they were all
inside the protective perimeter, he moved about to administer aid and provide
nourishment for the men's bodies and souls. In the course of this selfless
service, he was mortally wounded.
On Hill 875, this chaplain displayed a selfless devotion to his fellow
soldiers that went above and beyond the call of duty. For his actions, he
posthumously received the Medal of Honor. His actions are the epitome of
spiritual leadership. In the midst of the fight, he demonstrated his possession
of every attribute of a spiritual leader. Because he lived and breathed those
characteristics, he naturally `lived out' the Warrior Ethos. The impulse of his
character was to put the mission first, never accept defeat, never quit, and
10 May 2005