*BEST OF DTB #228* The Catholic Defender honors David Nunez

Posted by John Benko - November 18th, 2012

It was early 2010 after I returned from another deployment to Iraq that I went to Soldiers Chapel on Fort Hood.

This is when I met David Nunez for the first time. We struck off a friendship very quickly.

We both had big ideas that we wanted to do for the Catholic Community in the Fort Hood surrounding area.

I wanted to organize a coffee shop set for Soldiers and their families. The idea was to have something at least once a month that we could put something together where Soldiers could unwind and have a wholesome place to take their families.

I was also thinking of single Soldiers as well. Through this Vision, David and I were able to conduct some events featuring local groups hosting some family get togethers.

We also were able to host John Michael Talbot and Eric Genuis to come and play for our Community. Eric Genuis has come back twice more to play at Copperas Cove Catholic Church just outside of Fort Hood.

We worked together on a number of projects which I am so thankful. He would join me in singing for a group of Senior Citizens on a Tuesday night. He would play the piano and or the guitar for the people.

He also would come to the house and play music with my wife Gigi who would sing together playing the piano and the autoharp.

Early on, David would join the Rosary Patrol praying the Rosary on the radio with us. His contribution was always great. We organizd a meeting at my house with Eric Genuis to promote prolife awareness and met with local pro-life leaders.

I encouraged him to think about joining the Knights of Columbus which he ultimately did. As time went on, David wanted to join a monestery, at first he was very interested in joining John Michael Talbots Little Portion’s group based out of Eureka Springs Arkansas. In the end, David would settle for something near Houston Texas.

Working for the Catholic Community on Fort Hood, David was very important in helping the Catholic Priests. I would be there many times finding David always deeply involved in Post projects. He was a major player at the daily Mass always providing music for the Community.

I have never met someone who was as humble than David Nunez. He was always thinking of others before himself.

I remember on one occasion when David brought his Mother with him to visit Gigi and me. He really loved his Mother and his family. On other occasions, David would bring friends with him who he wanted me to talk too about the Catholic Faith.

David was a strong Catholic who had a deep love for Jesus Christ and His Church. David was one of the early members, a Charter Member of deepertruth. All of us at deepertruth will miss David Nunez, he will always be remembered for his zeal and humility.

Recently, David was in a coma and he did not survive. Even though it has been awhile that I had seen David because of his role in a monestery, he was a close personal friend. David, we love you and will miss you. David, may the perpetual light of Christ shine upon you now and forever more. Amen.

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*BEST OF DTB #226* The Catholic Defender: Father Duffy Of the Fighting 69th

Posted by John Benko - November 12th, 2012

One of my favorite old movies is called “The Fighting 69th”.

This is the story of a largely Irish regiment with the additions of other ethnic groups who had fought in the Civil War with distinction. I remember the 4th Alabama that fought for the South had once defeated the “Fighting 69″ in the Civil War, now they were being merged as one unit.

One of the greatest American Chaplains of all time served for this unit during World War I, Father Francis Patrick Duffy.

He was a Catholic Priest who served as an Army Chaplain during the Spanish and American War.

Because of the impending war to end all wars, Father Duffy was appointed as Chaplain of the “Fighting 69th” based out of New York in 1912.

Father Duffy by this time was promoted to Major and served as the senior chaplain of the 42nd Division.

Joyce Kilmer, a noted poet of the time wrote of the sea voyage across the Atlantic, “as long as the mess-line,” people would be waiting to go to confession.

Can you imagine this today? This is powerful. I will insert a story in Iraq that a Priest told me of a Soldier who came to Confession, he had been in several conflicts and was worried he might not make the next one out alive.

Father heard his confession and sadly, the Soldier was killed within six days in a battle.

Father Duffy continued to have long lines of Soldiers going to confession.

Father would offer Mass every morning using a make shift altar from a long board on two nail kegs.

It did not take the “Fighting 69th” long to enter the war, they arrived in France in November 1917.

If you scene the movie “War Horse”, you can get an idea what the trenches was like.

The Fighting 69th took position from French forces at Luneville in the Lorraine sector in 1918.

After two days of bombings they were hit by mustard gas killing over 400 Soldiers.

Father Duffy was always up on the front lines hearing confessions and offering Mass.

He was well loved by all the Soldiers as he encouraged them.

Father Duffy was most known for his presence among his troops.

He would travel with the medics which is common today, I was graced to serve with several Catholic Priests in a war zone.

I remember always having a chaplain with our aid station in the Gulf War. I would be serving Mass daily (Father would make an altar using MRE boxes) in the Saudi Arabian desert and
Father and I would walk around the perimeter praying the Rosary together.

Operation Iraq Freedom was different in that we were not set up like a conventional front line situation. We were set up in Joint Security Station’s (JSS) many of which never had a Catholic Priest.

I was utilized by the ArchDiocese of the Military as a Catholic Minister offering Catholic “Liturgy of the Word” Services.

Father Duffy showed great moral courage in the face of the heaviest fighting.

He was there to give care and comfort to the wounded offering the Last Rites to the dying.

Father Duffy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.

After the War, Father Duffy would serve as a Parish Priest in New York City.

If anyone out there from New York would like to send pictures of any monument that would be great!

Father would publish a book, “Father Duffy’s Story” about his experience in World War I. He died in 1932.

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*BEST OF DTB #227* The Catholic Defender: Father Duffy Part II

Posted by John Benko - November 12th, 2012

Father Duffy’s story really is a great inspiration. In a world when PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is common due to loud explosions, in the old days we would call that “Shell Shock”.

For some, faith and adrenaline would make some people react heroically while others fall apart. You really do not know how a person will react until the situation presents itself. Training is very important because most people will react in automatic mode when situations take place.

Situations will happen that will require you to have to react. Chaplains in the Military are very important because of their position of support in the heart and souls of the Soldier. Father Duffy exhibits a strong leadership quality that brought people back to reality, to get a hold of themselves. I want to show a scene from the “Fighting 69th” when Father Duffy wasw able to cause an effect that changed a Soldiers life:

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The Catholic Defender: The Father Vincent Capodanno Story

Posted by John Benko - November 11th, 2012

Today, I was at the Copeland Center at Fort Hood Texas preparing to work on my resume when I happened to run into a retired Navy Hospital Corpsman Mike McGrath.
He and his wife were present for an event designated for retirees.
Today, there were a number of retired Soldiers, Air Force, Nary, Marines present.
I struck up a conversation with Mr. McGrath as we were leaving for the parking lot.
He told me of his service in Viet Nam, that he had been wounded twice in battle receiving two Purple Hearts.
He also told me about a hero he knew when he was there in Viet Nam. His hero was a Catholic Priest named Father Vincent Capodanno. In reading the following “Medal of Honor” citation, I began to understand why he thought so much of this Priest.
Father Capodanno was a Marine Chaplain who served with his troops. He was killed in the service of his Country being awarded the Medal of Honor. May 19, 2002, his cause for canonization began by the Vatican. He is now refered to as “Servant of God”!

Father Capodanno’s official Medal of Honor citation is as follows:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Chaplain of the 3d Battalion, in connection with operations against enemy forces. In response to reports that the 2d Platoon of M Company was in danger of being overrun by a massed enemy assaulting force, Lt. Capodanno left the relative safety of the company command post and ran through an open area raked with fire, directly to the beleaguered platoon. Disregarding the intense enemy small-arms, automatic-weapons, and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded. When an exploding mortar round inflicted painful multiple wounds to his arms and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand, he steadfastly refused all medical aid. Instead, he directed the corpsmen to help their wounded comrades and, with calm vigor, continued to move about the battlefield as he provided encouragement by voice and example to the valiant Marines. Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately 15 yards away, Lt. Capodanno rushed a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman. At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gun fire. By his heroic conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.

This is a book covering the life of Father Capodanno.

*BEST OF DTB #225* The Catholic Defender’s wife speaks out on Deployments

Posted by John Benko - November 11th, 2012

Being in the Army for nearly 26 years, galloping around the world as often as I have done. I want to recognize my wife in her contribution. We have three Son’s who are currently in the Military. Between all of us we share in about 20 deployments:
The following is from Gigi: What do you say to the mother who is sending her son to war?

Maybe this can best be answered by reading the following letter from an anonymous Mom: “Some years ago when each of my sons were newborns and brought to me for the first time, I cried as I looked at them, thinking:

“God, what did I do to deserve something so beautiful and so perfect”?

Where did these overwhelming feelings of love and fierce protectiveness come from?? On that first holding of each I said a prayer, giving him back to God for safe keeping.

I know, they were already His, but, I guess I just needed that added assurance/insurance. I asked him to guide them and keep them safe .

For myself, I asked for the wisdom and knowledge to raise them to be good men.We went through the usual childhood illnesses/accidents, etc.

I dragged myself to football , basketball and baseball practices after working all day, continuously, for seemingly years on end. When they were sick I would sit up with them all night or hold their head when they barfed….

I know God loves tired, spent mothers because He sure made enough of us. We laughed together, cried together. I spanked, they cried. I cried in another room – (The younger one told me some years later that the saying “This hurts me more than it hurts you” was for the birds, but little did he know – it’s so true!)

We vacationed, got lost, rode bicycles, had an assortment of good, and bad, animals through the years (a bad one which immediately comes to mind is the skunk that the oldest brought home…….).

I could go on and on. All in all, the normal childhood. There’s no way to adequately cover all those years from childhood to manhood. They were good though, and I wish with all my heart that I could go back – when I could pull them into my lap and make all the bad go away, when my Mother’s Day gifts consisted of dandelions, painted rocks or Roly-poly’s with a fervent prayer that there not be a green snake in the box instead……when I kissed scraped knees and washed dirt beads from their necks at night.But, all of a sudden they were grown.

Where did the time go? Did I pull a Rip Van Winkle and sleep a few years? Such a mystery.They left for the Army the same week!! Empty Nest Syndrome set in with a vengeance and four months later the youngest one had orders to the Middle East.

The older one (stationed 1700 miles away) was worried about his brother and went to his Captain and said “Sir, I would like to go to Iraq in my brother’s place”. He was told “Son, it doesn’t work that way”. Shortly thereafter, he received his own orders and was in country a short two weeks after his brother. Now, some years later, they are NCO’s with troops under their guidance.

Presently they have 4 tours each under their belts and the youngest is leaving again this week for yet another year in the sand…….Lord, give me strength. Now. What do you tell the mother of a deployed son/daughter? Nothing, except:

”I’ll keep him/her in my prayers” and “You know I’m here if you need to talk”.

No more needs to be said. This is our own private hell.Each time I get that call or see one of mine getting on the bus or plane in full battle gear with the M16 slung over his shoulder, I want to scream for him to stop.

I can’t do that……I have to be stoic and not cry. I can’t let him carry that memory with him. It’s so hard – because a large chunk of my heart is being ripped out of my chest. The nightmares start that same night.

PLEASE, don’t ever say Oh, he’ll be fine”. Will he? In my anger over his leaving I might yell “How the hell do you know that??!!” Or, unless you’ve been in the same shoes, don’t say “I know how you feel”. DO you know???

Did you get those big sloppy kisses from him when he was little? Did you rock him all night when he had an earache? Did you go through the pain of his first love with him?……….So many things…..Just quietly be there for her.Myself, I’m more of a private person.

I want to be by myself to work it through and compute it. No conversations. I send my Guardian Angels with him, and I pray….a lot.

Just go ahead and give me the green snake for Mother’s Day!! I’ll gladly accept it if it will bring him home!”I guess my anonymity has been blown………

Yes, it’s me, Gigi. I’m so glad I work with soldiers, God bless and protect each one of them. They understand. Also, most of the employees are dependents or retired military, or they have a husband/son/daughter deployed or one who has recently returned.

I’m told a lot: “I’ll pray for him”……….mostly from other soldiers. Lord, thank you for my sons. Fine and brave young men that they are, it’s your doing, not mine.

Continue to keep your hand on them. Especially during this deployment or any that may follow.

I haven’t mentioned my soldier, my husband in this because I think I’ve expressed my fears/feelings previously about him while he’s in Harms way, but, you asked specifically about moms of deploying children.

God has really smiled down on me by allowing me these three special soldiers. Stay safe Don. You know you’re my rock. Sorry to be so wordy.

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* BEST OF DTB #180* The Catholic Defender: A Son’s Memorial

Posted by John Benko - November 1st, 2012

I have been working at a local Catholic Hospital just built in Killeen Texas, right outside of Fort Hood Texas.

Walking through the halls everywhere, pictures of country scenery are everywhere. Near the Chapel, there are pictures of Saints to include St. Elizebeth Ann Seton, the name sake of the Hospital.

When you move down towards the first floor elevators, there is a unique picture of a man in a field. It is a simple picture that seems to naturally fit where it has been placed.

I have looked upon this picture as the individual in it reminds me of my Uncle Albert, who use to work on his farm in southern Missouri.

When I look upon the pictures of the Saints placed in the hall, these pictures speak a 1,000 words because of those portrayed within them. Yet, this particular picture of a man reminded me of a hard working man who built a life from hard work.

I didn’t know the individual in the picture but I was struck by the simplicity of the Man in the picture. I was working one Saturday when a number of visitors came by the Hospital, they were wanting to take a tour in the Hospital.

One of the Employees wanted to take family members and show them their office. After observing that everything was fine, I began to strike up a conversation with a gentleman (Ken Ethridge) and his wife who were visiting the hospital independent of the other people.

I had thought everyone came together but I found that Ken and his wife were here for a different reason. I was soon to learn that Ken was the Artist who painted the picture of the Man I had observed and was interested about. He proceded to tell me the story of the Man in the Picture:

“The story behind the painting is that it was based on a photograph taken the last time I saw my Dad in July of 2001. He was 81. He was killed by a drunk driver on Labor Day, 2001 coming back from the ranch, so 9/11 was kind of a blur to me. We were going aloft in a friends plane to scatter his ashes over the ranch that day when the airspace lock-down was issued and we had to wait a week.

I took the picture the painting was based on with the camera sitting in my lap, not knowing if anything would result. We had gone out to one of the pastures to fix a cattle trough which had a broken float valve. The rusty mesh in the lower left corner covered the valve. Dad bent over to bend the float back into shape and got sprayed with water. The painting shows him cleaning the water drops off his glasses with his handkerchief. This is how I best remember him and the painting has a tremendous personal significance for me.”

I was very thankful and honored to have met Ken Ethridge and his wife as they are very delightful people to meet.

As I thought about Ken’s story and the painting, I am reminded that we are not promised tomorrow. You never know when something happens out of your control.

When my Mother passed, I was thankful for everything that took place preceding her death. My Brother and I were present praying the Rosary for Mom. I know that Mom would be very happy about that!

Many of us can relate to Ken’s story in our own lives. For me, Ken’s story makes the picture come alive full of meaning. I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to consistantly show your loved ones you do care. You never know when you might be speaking to someone for the last time. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Always part with a blessing to those you love. God bless you!
The upcoming video is a song written and performed by two of my Sons, Nathan and Jason called No Tomorrow:

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