To the editor: My Brother Sir Knights and I would like to thank The News-Item for the opportunity to respond to the Sound Off comment that questioned the Knights of Columbus’ participation in the United States’ armed conflicts.
For more than 136 years, members of the Knights of Columbus have proudly participated in every American war, expeditionary action and conflict. Our history of participation began with the founding members of the Knights who were Civil War veterans, to the current active-duty warriors deployed globally. Our order has more than 60 military councils on bases within the United States and five other countries. The Knights of Columbus has served as both combat, combat support warriors and providers of combat support, providing for the temporal and spiritual well-being of our military personnel, regardless of their Christian denomination. That work continues today.
Beginning in 1916, during the Mexican campaign commanded by Gen. John J. Pershing, the Knights established recreation centers where they could attend to both the physical and spiritual needs of the enlisted men.
The program was so successful that it was greatly expanded in World War I with the “hut program.” The motto of these huts was, “Everybody welcome. Everything free.” In November 1917, Gen. Pershing signed General Order No. 63 allowing the Knights to provide services to the men in Europe. At the end of the war, Pershing said, “Of all the organizations that took part in the winning of the war, with the exception of the military itself, there was none so efficiently and ably administered as the Knights of Columbus.”
In December 1928, with the records of 800,000 Catholic World War I veterans available, a vast majority of them Knights, the National Catholic War Council (NCWC) began to gather evidence to counter bigoted charges that American Catholics were not patriotic. As of 1931, Catholic Knights had won 15 of 92 awards of the Congressional Medal of Honor, 486 of the 6,015 awards of the Distinguished Service Cross and 49 of 1,335 awards of the Distinguished Service Medal.
Finally, each “degree” of the Knights of Columbus is associated with a particular virtue, the 4th Degree being “patriotism,” Consequently, the 4th Degree is often known as “The Patriotic Degree.” It was established in New York on Feb. 22, 1900. The requirements for joining the Patriotic 4th Degree should be thought of in terms of service to church and sound citizenship to his country.
Members of the Patriotic Degree proudly foster patriotism in our nation by working to honor and protect symbols of national pride; participating in national holiday celebrations; honoring veterans for their service and sacrifices; providing visible examples of personal responsibility in civic affairs; and taking publicly visible leadership roles on important national and moral issues.
The re-dedication of the veterans memorial at Cemetery Hill in Springfield was organized and executed by the Knights of Columbus Cardinal Mindszenty Assembly 932 of Elysburg and Shamokin. We were the first and only assembly in the United States to create a veterans committee to honor our true American heroes. The costs associated with this re-dedication were paid for exclusively by the assembly’s veterans committee with materials donated by Brother Sir Knight Dan Shingara. And if that’s not a patriotic salute of respect and love to the veterans who sacrificed to preserve our American freedom, then I don’t know what is. God bless America!
Respectfully submitted on behalf of all my Brother Sir Knights,
J. P. Marinari
Past Faithful Navigator