Preserving a history of heroism

A story that recently appeared in a newspaper insinuated that Pilsen is too rinky-dink of a community to be the home of historical artifacts related to Father Emil Kapaun, the heroic Army chaplain who died protecting and serving his fellow prisoners of war in the Korean War and who is being honored Thursday with the posthumous presentation of the Medal of Honor — not to mention his candidacy for sainthood.

Isn’t it possible that Kapaun’s upbringing in a small community contributed to his strength of character? Perhaps he looked out for his fellow soldiers because he had grown up seeing people look out for their neighbors? Pilsen is the appropriate home for Kapaun’s Medal of Honor.

But is Pilsen ready for the attention it will receive, ready to keep safe, and preserve its special history? That is another question, and it is one that devoted volunteers are working hard to answer, “Yes.” They have consulted with law enforcement and are making plans to keep the relics of this special piece of Marion County’s history safe.

But it is going to take money to make the upgrades church volunteers want. People’s generous donations to the cause for Kapaun’s canonization are tied up in the candidacy for sainthood, and there is nothing available for building improvements.

We at the newspaper asked for and received permission to establish a Chaplain Kapaun Legacy Fund on behalf of the local volunteers to preserve the historical legacy of Kapaun in Pilsen and Marion County. Fund donations, which can be made at Tampa State Bank, will only be used to secure and preserve the mini-museum and, hopefully, for the eventual construction of a visitor center near St. John Nepomucene Church, where Kapaun attended church as a boy and where he served as a priest.

To kick it off, we will donate $1,000 in the hope of spurring other donations. To encourage more donations to this worthy cause, we have made arrangements with Didde Publishers of Emporia to print Monsignor Arthur Tonne’s 1954 book about Kapaun, The Story of Chaplain Kapaun, as a serial beginning next week.

— ADAM STEWART

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