This Assembly is dedicated to Father H. Timothy Vakoc, a priest
of the Archdioceses of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who died June
20, 2009. Father Vakoc was the first Army Chaplain to be gravely
injured in theIraq War. Currently he is the only Catholic chaplain
to have died from wounds incurred in combat during the wars in the
Father Vakoc joined the Knights of Columbus at
the age of 18 and was a member for 31 years. Father Vakoc was
ordained in 1992 and served in two parishes before joining the U.S.
Army full time in 1996.
At the end of 2003 he was deployed to
Iraq. Six months later in May of 2004, Father Vakoc’s Humvee was hit
by a road bomb while he was returning to his barracks after saying
Mass for soldiers on the 12th anniversary of his ordination. He
suffered severe head injuries, including the loss of his left eye
and brain damage.
Father Vakoc was in a coma for two years
after the attack. Beyond medical expectations, he regained some
movement and communicated skills. He fought multiple infections
following his injury.
Father Vakoc was retired from the Army
with the rank of Major. He received a Purple Heart, the Bronze Star
Medal and the Combat Action Award.
In an e-mail interview
with the National Catholic Register, before he was injured, Father
Vakoc wrote: “I live with [the soldiers], work with them, eat with
them, care for them, listen to them, counsel them. The soldiers know
if you are real and genuinely care for them or not. The bottom line
in helping these soldiers through the grieving process is to be
present to them and walk with them.”
“ I pray with the
soldiers, I pray for the soldiers who died. I brought the sacraments
of the church and the light into the darkness of the situations.”