I was raised Catholic-attending St. Magdalen’s Church when it was still located on Park Avenue. I served as an altar boy and can still remember polishing my shoes in preparation for Sunday Mass. When I was 17, I enlisted in the Navy and at 18 went to Vietnam-I was a hospital corpsman, in the Fleet Marine Force on my 1 tour and a ‘special warfare’ unit in my other 1 and a half tours. My job was to rescue and treat wounded marines, team mates and civilians. I saw some very ugly things in Vietnam—many of which are etched into my memory. I was wounded on three separate occasions, low-crawling through machine gun, rifle fire and artillery-seeking to save the lives of men in my unit. My best friend, a radio operator, was one such person who I was unable to save. Because of the atrocities of combat, I found myself losing faith in God. I asked, “God, why? Why did you take him?” This loss of faith, I have found, is very common in war veterans. As a result, I was away from the Church for more than 30 years. After going through the inpatient PTSD unit at VA Hospital as well as Outpatient I felt a little relief from the nightmares, but my Faith was still lacking.
My Mom would often ask me if I was going to Church. I would respond in the negative, but when she passed away and appeared in a dream asking me this very same question-it shook me up. Shortly after, a member of the Knight of Columbus came into my Army/Navy store and told me about the Knights—that’s when I started going back to Church. I really came back to Christ, however, when I made a good confession.I read somewhere that during the Year of Mercy, it was important to confess all of my sins. I did one last confession,That I had killed while in combat then I went through the‘Doors of Mercy’ and felt like the 175lb combat back-back I had been “carrying” emotionally for all those years was finally lifted up. That night I experienced the best night of sleep I have had in years.
The Lord has brought deep healing through many of the ministries provided at the parish—including the Divorce Care,The Knights of Columbus, being involved in the Boy Scouts,and now through being able to minister to other veterans in our newly formed Veterans Ministry, of which I am the head. I am in the process of trying to start a post for Catholic War Veterans here in Flemington and find great consolation from our patron— Medal of Honor recipient and Servant of God Father Vincent Capodanno, a priest who also served in the Vietnam war as a chaplain. I felt an instant connection with him when I realized that he not only served in the same war-but he also‘low-crawled’ to wounded soldiers, bringing them last rites. I believe God will use my trials to help others.BACK TO LIST