is very rewarding to have the opportunity to recall, in print, the deeds of extraordinary
individuals. Over the years, some sacrifices may go unnoticed other than perhaps
one news article being written – then the event passes into history and the newsprint
yellows with age – the episode only being remembered by family and friends. Father
Marcus Valenta was one of those exceptional people.
He served his God, country, and fellow man without personal regard for his own
well being. According to one newspaper, “Father Valenta was a popular and well-known
pastor of the Assumption
of Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church at Praha.”
But perhaps his greatest achievement was his service to the U.S. Army – at the
time, he had the longest active-duty record in U.S. history. |
about Father Valenta appeared in a February 1959 issue of The Lavaca County
Tribune. It was reprinted from a military publication, the Talon, which
originated out of Ft.
Sam Houston. Selected passages from that original article are featured in
this edition of Lone Star Diary.
Marcus Valenta achieves longest active-duty record in U.S. historyOf
all the chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces, one has seen longer continuous combat-theatre
duty than any other. He is Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Marcus A. Valenta, a reserve officer.
Lavaca County Tribune – Feb. 10, 1959
Diocesan priest of St.
Mary’s Church at Praha,
Father Valenta, now in his twenty-fifth year as an Army chaplain, served in the
Pacific from before Pearl
Harbor until after the Japanese surrender. The chaplain, who first saw duty
at Fort Sam Houston
in 1933, expects to put in a total of 32 years before mandatory retirement.
“I would gladly stay longer,” he said, “God and the Army willing.”
duty as a CCC chaplain at Lufkin
prior to the National Emergency Act of 1940, Father Valenta was sent at that time
to Maxwell Field, Ala. In July 1941 he was assigned to the old 22nd Brigade at
Schofield Barracks, T.H.
His unit, the 27th Infantry Regt., went into
the newly formed 25th Division a short time later. “Just in time for Pearl Harbor,”
His recollections of that Dec. 7 morning are both comic and tragic,
and he relates them all vividly – the unpreparedness, the unbelief, and the final
realization of “this is it.”
After leading a busload of children to shelter
as bombs began to fall on nearby Wheeler Field, the chaplain commandeered a car
to Wheeler to minister to the wounded. He was then placed in charge of the evacuation
of women and children from Schofield.
Then came duty on Canton Island,
where runways were being built to base the air assault on the Gilbert and Marshall
Islands. Then back to Hawaii in time to join the task force for the invasion of
Next came Okinawa on D-Day. He was still there on the Japanese
surrender date, Aug. 15, 1945, and recalls watching through binoculars as the
Japanese envoys landed on a near-by island enroute to their appointment with Gen.
MacArthur on the USS Missouri.
Chaplain Valenta remained on Okinawa as
chaplain of the camp set up for American and Allied prisoners of war being repatriated
from Japanese labor battalions and routed home. The chaplain, who had already
put in more months overseas than any other, delayed his rotation and stayed on.
“There were so few chaplains,” Father Valenta explained, “and those pitiful
POW’s needed help. Besides, Christmas was coming up, and those men were looking
forward to the services.”
His final departure for the States was almost
delayed when the airplane was warming up for the take-off.
from the medics said I had to have 12 inoculations because I couldn’t find my
shot record,” the chaplain recalls. “I told him I had been a guinea pig all through
the war, taking more shots than he had ever seen.”
Finally the medic settled
for 6 shots. Fearing his plane would leave without him, Father Valenta hastily
bared both arms and said, “Shoot three in each arm, quick.”
Star Diary February
4 , 2011 Column
| Texas People