Wichita, Kan. (KAKE) — On Saturday, Father Emil Kapaun, the Kansas priest who died in a Korean POW camp over 70 years ago, finally got his hero’s welcome home.
His plane touched down at Eisenhower National Airport at noon. Service members carefully unloaded Father Kapaun’s American flag-draped casket. He was finally home, back in Kansas for the first time since he left the state for military service in 1949.
It was a monumental day for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.
“The bishops of the Diocese have been hoping one day we might have the mortal remains of our beloved priest, Father Kapaun, back with us. And now it’s come to pass,” remarked Bishop Carl Kemme.
The return was an emotional one for many, including Nick Dellasega. He is one of Father Kapaun’s potential miracles, saying, “In 2011, I was running in a 5k and my heart stopped. People prayed and Father Kapaun saved my life, interceded for me.”
While Dellasega watched as the casket was loaded onto the hearse that would take Kapaun to Pilsen, another person waited outside the airport for his chance to catch a glimpse of the motorcade.
Chase Kear suffered a major head injury in a pole vault accident, nearly killing him. While in the hospital, his family prayed to Father Kapaun. Kear says those prayers are what saved his life.
“It’s really it’s hard to describe all the feelings I got going on right now,” he admitted.
As Father Kapaun’s motorcade left the airport, headed to the priest’s hometown of Pilsen, both men say they are honored to pay tribute to the one they believe saved their lives.
Dellasega says all of this “is something that we never thought would happen.”
As for Kear, he says the the moment was almost overwhelming.
“My heart was about to explode, just knowing that he’s home after after 70 years, and how much that means to so many people. I mean, it means so much more.”