Franciscan Love

 For love of Him they ought to expose themselves to enemies both visible and invisible.

Saint Francis of Assisi

 

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 17, 1913, Herman G. Felhoelter was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1939.  He served as an Army chaplain during War II and was awarded a Bronze Star.

Reenlisting in the Army after the war, on July 16th 1950 he was a Captain serving as a chaplain with the 19th Infantry in Korea.  The 19th was in a tough spot that day.  The North Koreans had established a road block in the rear of the regiment near the village of Tunam, South Korea.  The regiment was in retreat, moving through mountains, trying to get around the roadblock, and slowed by the numerous wounded being carried due to the heavy fighting with the North Koreans during the battle for Taegu.  It was obvious by 9:00 PM on the evening of July 16th that 30 of the most seriously wounded could go no farther due to their stretcher bearers being exhausted.  Father Felhoelter and the chief medical officer Captain Linton J. Buttrey volunteered to stay with the wounded while the rest of the men escaped.  Father  Felhoelter was under no illusions of what would happen to the wounded and to him after the advancing North Koreans captured them, and swiftly gave them the Last Rites while he tended to them.

Soon Father Felhoelter  heard a North Korean patrol approaching.  He told Buttrey to escape, which Buttrey reluctantly did, being severely wounded in the process.  An American sergeant with binoculars watched in horror at what happened next.  Ignoring the approaching North Koreans, Father Felhoelter knelt and prayed over the wounded.  The North Koreans killed him by shooting him in the head and the back and then proceeded to murder the helpless wounded.

For his heroism that day  Father Felhoelter posthumously was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest medal for valor in the US Army after the Medal of Honor.  He was one day shy of his 37th birthday, and was the first US chaplain to die in the Korean War.  A few days before his death he wrote to his mother:   Don’t worry Mother. God’s will be done. I feel so good to know the power of your prayers accompanying me. I am not comfortable in Korea (that is impossible here) but I am happy in the thought that I can help some souls who need help. Keep your prayers going upward.

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