By Lt. Keith Connor, USS Mount Whitney
U.S. 6th Fleet flagship, USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), hosted a memorial service in honor of Lt. Vincent Capodanno, a U.S. Navy Chaplain who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service with Marines in Vietnam, in Piazza di Capodanno, Gaeta, Italy, Sept. 4, 2020.
Joined by the Mayor of Gaeta, Cosmo Mitrano, Capt. David Pollard, Mount Whitney’s commanding officer, used the occasion to celebrate the life of the Catholic priest, whose family roots date back to Gaeta, where his father, Vincent Capodanno Sr., was born and later immigrated to America in 1901.
"Father Capodanno was a Navy Chaplain who gave his life while serving his fellow Marines and we are honored to participate with the town of Gaeta to commemorate his life of excellence,” said Pollard.
The memorial service took place in Vincent Capodanno Piazza, directly next to the monument built in his honor. This monument is the only monument in Italy that recognizes Father Capodanno, or the ‘Grunt Padre’ as he was affectionately known.
The ceremony was held on the 53rd anniversary of Capodanno’s passing. Capodanno passed on the battlefield in Vietnam while serving as chaplain for 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division after suffering severe injuries caused by a mortar round during his attempt to rescue a wounded corpsman. While under fire, Capodanno also attended to the wounded and dying, administering last rites and encouraging other Marines during the battle.
“It is an honor to have the U.S. Navy as a partner for this commemorating ceremony and we are proud to honor a hero who was a Navy Chaplain and priest of Gaetane origins,” said Mitrano.
The Archbishop of Gaeta, Monsignor Luigi Vari, offered his blessing of the wreath, which was laid at the monument of Vincent Capodanno.
Local Italian veterans associations, U.S. Navy Chaplains from the region, Italian military, as well as leading members of the community were present for the ceremony. The 6th Fleet Chaplain, Brian Weigelt, and Chaplain Fr. Joselito Tiongson offered the invocation and benediction respectively.
Mount Whitney, forward deployed to Gaeta, Italy operates with a combined crew of U.S. Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests, and promote security and stability in Europe and Africa.