Medal of Honor recipient, Father Vincent R. Capodanno,
US Navy Chaplain
February 13, 2929 - September 4, 1967
Anyone who has chipped away at hard ground to prepare a garden can appreciate what a labor-intensive endeavor it can be. Once the ground around the deck was broken up, the next phase of the landscaping began. Mike and his group built retaining walls, and installed pavers to provide a patio between the Deck and the chapel.
A staircase was constructed to connect the level area of the pavers to the main entrance of the Memorial Deck. Finally, a wheelchair ramp was added to the rear of the Deck and a stainless steel plaque engraved with the names of the 25 Fallen to which the Memorial Deck is dedicated was placed near the entrance.
Masco Corporation and Vons Supermarkets provided grants to help defray the cost of the Deck and the landscaping. The Vons grant was used to purchase pavers and retaining wall blocks, and Masco funds were used for irrigation and landscaping with drought-tolerant plants.
The Memorial Deck is used regularly by Marines as an outdoor conference area, is the location for a cook-out every Sunday night and has been used for weddings and other celebrations..
The Memorial Deck has been recognized by Camp Pendleton as a major contribution. Because of his efforts in completing this project, Mike Bland was honored as the Camp Pendleton Civilian Volunteer of the Year for 2013.
Building a deck was the first stage of the project. After months of planning, with a shoestring budget and donated or discount priced building materials, Mike commenced building a 16 X 24 foot deck.
Foundation piers were installed, followed by the addition of foundation framework, decking and railing. Solar lights and patio furniture made sure the Deck would be a welcoming place for all 3/5. Even though expenses were controlled, the Memorial Deck is constructed of durable, high quality materials that will last for decades.
The second stage of the project involved conquering the uneven terrain around the deck to provide easy access from the chapel. Team Dark Horse volunteers, with the assistance of Marines, excavated the area by hand.
Actually, the Marines who swung axes along with the Team Dark Horse volunteers were volunteers themselves. Working side by side with the active Marines, Evan Gost and Jonathan Bromberg, both former Navy pilots who flew missions in Vietnam, noted the contrast between community support of the military today as compared with the lack of public support in the Vietnam era.
Darkhorse Marines occupy a portion of the Base called Camp San Mateo. Tucked away among the buildings and barracks of Camp San Mateo, is a small chapel – the Capodanno Chapel. In the early days of Team Dark Horse, Founding Father Mike Bland noticed the small chapel and the sorry state of the area surrounding it. The interior of the chapel was inviting, but the stark dirt area around it moved Mike to action.
Not only was the area inaccessible by wheelchair, the rocky, uneven terrain made walking difficult. Mike had a vision to make the chapel and the surrounding area into a “destination” place for 3/5 Marines. He enlisted other early members of Team Dark Horse to help him build a deck dedicated to the 25 Fallen Marines from the deployment to Sangin, Alghanistan.
501(C)(3) ID# 27-4526336
For more about Father Capodanno:
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.
The Memorial Deck is built adjacent to the Capodanno Chapel, named for Lieutenant Vincent R. Capodanno, U.S. Navy Roman Catholic Chaplain. Father Capodanno is the only chaplain to receive our nation’s highest military honor – the Medal of Honor. Serving during the Vietnam War, Fr. Capodanno , known as the “Grunt Chaplain,” died while attempting to save the lives of those he administered to. The official citation explains his bravery: