As the United States takes time to pause and honor all the men and women who have served our country proudly, we, Catholics should do the same. Many are living and deceased.
Here is a list of nine Catholic veterans who answered the call.
In 1882, Mullen attended a meeting in the basement of St. Mary’s in New Haven, CT. It was during the meeting with Blessed Father Michael J McGivney that he would propose the name of the largest Catholic global fraternity in the world with more than 2 million strong known as the Knights of Columbus. Like many Catholics at the time, Mullen experienced bigotry and discrimination when he was serving for a regiment in Connecticut during the Civil War. He saw firsthand why a Catholic brotherhood is needed when those who despise the faith use it to differentiate against another. Mullen would go on to become the first Supreme Knight of the organization.
Daniel Daly is considered the most decorated Marine in U.S. Military History. He would be credited with the biggest battle cry for his fellow marines during the Battle of Belleau Woods in World War I known as “Retreat Hell”. During the nearly one-month battle, Daly and his fellow marines were trapped by the Germans. Should the Germans emerge victorious, they have a clear path to capturing Paris. Despite the lack of support and running out of sufficient supplies, Daly and his fellow marines stood their ground. He would carry out solo missions to take out enemy machine gun nests. Daly is a two-time Medal of Honor recipient. He saw action in the Caribbean, Pacific, and Europe in his lifelong military career. He would retire in 1929 and spend the final eight years of his life in Long Island, New York until his death in 1937.
The 46th Governor of Florida makes the list. Yes, he is Catholic. He is a die-hard Catholic and he canceled his inauguration in January 2019 for his son’s Baptism. Nicknamed Florida’s Governor DeSantis served in the Navy SEALs in Afghanistan in the late 2000s. He played baseball from Little League up to Division I for the Florida State Seminoles.
John F Kennedy
Yes, he is a bit controversial. But what’s a list of Catholic veterans without the 35th President of the United States? Kennedy inspired a nation with his inauguration speech when he asked his fellow citizens to forge new frontiers and ask what they can do for our country. Kennedy served in the Navy during World War II. He survived the wreckage of his boat PT 109.
Admiral Jeremiah Denton and Captain Guy Gruters
The Vietnam War saw Catholics that come together during their time of imprisonment. In addition to the late Rear Admiral James Stockdale and Senator John McCain, two Catholic pilots endured so much torture and suffering, Jeremiah Denton and Guy Gruters.
Jeremiah Denton was the longest tenure POW and was known for blinking in morse code the word “Torture” to describe his experience at Hanoi Hilton, the notorious POW camp in Northern Vietnam. He became the first POW to exit the plane after his release during Operation Homecoming in 1973.
After leaving the Navy, he went on to serve one term in the U.S. Senate for his home state of Alabama from 1981 to 1987. He was the first Catholic from the state to do so. During his time, he focused on protecting national security and the family in a short political career. Notably, he passed the Adolescent Family Life Act in 1981 which promoted abstinence. Like Ronald Reagan, he too was an opponent of communism and worked to take down the Soviet Union. Denton died in 2014.
Like Jeremiah Denton and many others POWS, Captain Guy Gruters, an Air Force pilot, was also interned in the Hanoi Hilton for five years. Prior to his captivity, he flew over 400 combat missions. He was shot down twice. The first time he was rescued. The second sealed his fate. He also was part of Operation Homecoming in 1973. After a career in airlines, he would go around the country, speaking about his message of mercy to his captives and warning those who love socialism. He is married with five children and married for over 45 years.
Lt. General Hal Moore
Hal Moore is a name for many who fought in the Vietnam War. The subject of the memoir “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young” details Moore’s command of the 7th Calvary during the Ia Drang Valley campaign, the first battle of the Vietnam War. Following his commission as a second lieutenant, Moore would spend a few days at the Abbey of Gethsemani. His Catholic faith, as his daughter-in-law recalled, was huge in his life.
Edward “Babe” Heffron and William “Wild Bill” Guarnere
Two of the surviving members of Easy Company live miles from each other in Philadelphia. What brought them closer was their experiences from Operation Market Garden to The Battle of the Bulge and everything in between. These two saw the horror of war together. They even lost a brother in arms through their experience. Guarnere even lost his brother, Henry during the invasion of Italy just days prior to the Battle of Normandy.
During the war’s carnage and desperation, they both became brothers. Their accounts while serving with the famed Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division would be recorded in Stephen Ambrose’s best-seller Band of Brothers which later became a miniseries for HBO of the same name.
They both maintained a strong friendship for the rest of their lives. Both died a year apart and were adored by their families and the community of the South Philadelphia neighborhood.
We owe these veterans our gratitude and prayers. For them, they gave their all.
Thank a veteran. They’re the reason we are free.
Pro Deo et Patria