The Common Love Story: Gold Star Mass 2022

By: Jesus Garcia ’23

Every year, Chaminade High School students, faculty, staff and guests gather together as one Chaminade family to celebrate the Gold Star Mass. The Gold Star Mass, held every fall, honors 56 of Chaminade’s alumni who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our country. 

This annual event convened once again on September 29th, where the Chaminade family united in the Activity-Athletic Center (AAC) for this important Mass. The celebrant of the Mass was Father Peter Heiskell ’86.  Vincent Berna ’23 and Anthony Bellone ’23 assisted as the cross-bearers. The Color Guard, composed of members of the United States Marine Corps (USMC), led the procession in and out of the Mass. Every person demonstrated reverence and respect as he or she contemplated the greatness of the sacrifices made by the Gold Star Alumni. 

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) Color Guard present arms to honor Chaminade’s 56 Gold Star Alumni.

Fr. Heiskell centered his homily around the topic of love and shared the story of Gold Star alumnus, First Lieutenant Stephen E. Karopczyc ’61. 

1LT Karopczyc served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and made the ultimate sacrifice when he led his men to provide support for a neighboring American platoon. He swiftly maneuvered his way through the open, risking being killed by enemy forces, to throw smoke grenades to inform army helicopters of the foe’s position. 1LT Karopczyc continued to direct the helicopters by using his weapon to mark their location and regularly checked up on his men and guided their actions. Despite the danger of exposing himself to the enemy, 1LT Karopczyc continued to risk his safety in order to accomplish the mission at hand. Later, 1LT. Karopczyc was shot by an enemy in the chest, right above his heart; however, this serious wound did not stop him from leading his men. He refused aid, placed his finger into the wound to prevent excessive bleeding, and continued to lead his men through the battle. Suddenly, a grenade was thrown in close proximity to two of 1LT Karopczyc’s men. In an act of pure love for his subordinates, 1LT Karopczyc launched himself onto the grenade and covered it with his helmet in order to save their lives. Even after this fatal blow, 1LT Karopczyc courageously led his platoon as best as he could, but he eventually died from his injuries. 1LT Karopczyc received the Medal of Honor posthumously on March 12th,1967 for his heroic actions and outstanding leadership.

Gold Star Alumnus Stephen E. Karopczyc.

1LT Karopczyc’s impressive act of giving his life to save other lives is a vital example of the love Fr. Peter described in the beginning of his homily, and it is something each member of the Gold Star Alumni exemplified. Fr. Peter encouraged the Chaminade family to remember this act of love, and to live with the same selfless attitude that each Gold Star Alumnus possessed.

Following the Gold Star Mass, the families of the Gold Star alumni, along with Chaminade alumni who have served or are serving in the United States Military gathered for a brunch under the tent in Faerber Field. Various Chaminade Senior Leaders assisted the guests and had the valuable opportunity to talk to veterans and some families of the Gold Star Alumni.