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Kapaun Museum given icon from Bosnian chapel named in his honor

Artwork donated by retired army chaplain

Staff writer

After the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United States 1st Infantry Division was given the task of enforcing a peace agreement signed in December 1995.

Camp McGovern was one of the army camps in Bosnia, and its chapel was named after Emil Kapaun, a Catholic chaplain who was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his selfless actions as a prisoner of War in North Korea. He died in the camp in May 1951.

Kapaun has been named a Servant of God, and many have embraced his cause for sainthood.

Retired army chaplain Lt. Col. Grant Speece of Dwight, Illinois, was a Protestant chaplain at Camp McGovern when the camp was closed in 2004 as its peacekeeping mission came to an end.

“No shots were fired, and the troops were not needed to keep the peace anymore,” Speece said.

Speece retrieved an icon of Christ from the chapel before the camp closed. He and his wife, Bethany, arrived at

Pilsen on Tuesday to donate it to the Kapaun Museum.

The icon is a copy of a famous Russian icon, “Our Savior—the Wet Beard,” and is known in Western Europe as “Veronica’s Ludarium.”

Speece said the original was probably painted at the Academy of Fine Arts in Novgorod about 1500 A.D.

Museum director Harriet Bina said she was touched that a chaplain of another faith would honor Father Kapaun with such a gift.

“All the faiths come together for Father Kapaun,” she said. “He took care of people of all faiths in the prison camp, and he’s still doing it.”

Speece retired in 2010. He is pastor of First Congregational Church in Dwight, Illinois, and Emington Congregational Church in neighboring Emington.

Last modified Sept. 26, 2019

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